NEW DELHI (Agencies) - For many of India's 140 million Muslims, the general elections that start on Thursday (tomorrow) serve only to highlight their community's sense of isolation and neglect. As a major voting bloc, their support should be much sought after - but few parties hold strong attractions for Indian Muslims, who often live in congested urban ghettos and face widespread prejudice. Acrimonious campaigning for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls to elect 124 MPs from 17 states and Union Territories ended on Tuesday. Canvassing of votes for the April 16 election was marked by bitterness in the camps of the two leading parties Congress and the BJP, with bitter exchanges seen in other quarters as well. The elections are expected to produce a hung parliament and a fragile coalition government. RJD's Lalu Prasad, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi, TRS' K Chandrasekhar Rao, Congress' Renuka Chowdhury, actress Vijasanthi, NTR's daughter D Purandeswari and former union minister B Dattatreya are among those seeking election to the lower house of Parliament. Thursday's vote will take in large swathes of northern and eastern India, including areas beset by a range of violent insurgencies. In order to ensure voter safety, more than two million security personnel will be rotated around the country over the five phases of balloting that end on May 13, with results to be announced three days later. Neither of India's two main national parties - the incumbent Congress and the BJP - is seen as capable of securing an absolute majority. Politicians who have promised to bring improvements in the past have struggled to solve problems that have plagued Muslims since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Last year's attacks on Mumbai have added to the suspicion and even hatred that Indian Muslims experience. "Some political parties show sympathy, some talk of sidelining Muslims and some just hate us," said Aftab Ahmed, a Muslim shopkeeper near Delhi's Jama Masjid, India's biggest mosque. "We are treated as an issue not as human beings." A victim of communal violence, Aftab's cousins were killed and his father's shop was ransacked by Hindus in 1947, when the subcontinent was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. In the past 62 years, tensions between the faiths have been a common flashpoint in India, often triggered by political parties and fundamentalists keen to whip up their own supporters. Traditionally, the ruling Congress party has enjoyed the support of many Muslim voters by following a policy of appeasement - promising Muslims more jobs, better opportunities and improved safety. But Muslim community leaders say little action has followed, and the Muslim vote has now splintered into many different regional parties. The Hindu hardline Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently leading the Opposition, came to national prominence on its Hindu nationalist policies, and maintains bitter relations with Muslims. Its manifesto reiterates a commitment to build a Hindu temple on the ruins of Babri Masjid demolished in 1992 by Hindus fanatics. "Give me one good reason why Muslims should live in India," said Mehroob Bano, a Muslim lawyer in Gujarat state who is fighting for the release of Muslims accused of burning a train and killing 59 Hindus in 2002. "We are targeted, humiliated, labelled as terrorists and even thrown in jail for years without trial," Bano said. A committee formed by the outgoing Congress administration found that Muslims were educationally and economically deprived, and had a status similar to Dalits, the low caste Hindus formerly known as "untouchables."