I VADODARA, India (AFP) - Indian election frontrunner Narendra Modi waved to thousands of cheering supporters as he filed his papers to stand in the country's mammoth six-week election that entered its second of nine phases on Wednesday.
Mr Modi, a hardline Hindu nationalist widely tipped to emerge as prime minister when results are published on May 16, is standing from the Vadodara constituency in the western state of Gujarat.
Making a rare public outing in a jeep, Mr Modi waved at crowds waving the saffron-coloured flag of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is forecast to inflict a crushing defeat on the ruling Congress party.
In the remote northeast of the country, meanwhile, voting began amid tight security in constituencies in four insurgency-wracked states close to the disputed border with China.
Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland are the second wave of voting in the election process which has been staggered to allow security forces to re-deploy in between stages.
Voters flocked early to polling stations in Arunachal Pradesh, an eastern stretch of the Himalayas that China claims as its own, despite pouring rain overnight, the Press Trust of India reported.
During campaigning in February in the area, the scene of a 1962 war between India and China, Mr Modi had warned Beijing to shed its "expansionist mindset".
Hundreds of extra security forces have been deployed in neighbouring and underdeveloped Nagaland, where rebels from tribal groups have waged a decades-long campaign for more rights.
Security was also tight in nearby Meghalaya, where ethnic and separatist groups have also long fought against the state, and the border with Bangladesh has been closed, Press Trust of India news agency said.
Six seats are up for grabs on Wednesday ahead of the third phase of voting on Thursday that will be by far the biggest to date, with constituencies in 14 states including the capital region heading to the ballot box.
The opposition BJP is expected to sweep to power in the world's biggest election at a time of low economic growth as well as anger over corruption and rising food prices.
As well as a Vadodara, Mr Modi is also set to stand from a second seat in the northern holy Hindu city of Varanasi on the river Ganges in the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh.