Voters turned out in large numbers Saturday to choose three new state assemblies in an important test of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's popularity as he girds for his first re-election bid as leader of the world's largest democracy.

About 65 percent of 35 million voters in the southern state of Tamil Nadu cast ballots for 232 assembly seats in the most critical polling, election officials said in the capital of Madras, 1,090 miles southeast of New Delhi.