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BJP projected to gain strength

New Delhi, May 3: The Vajpayee-led alliance appears set to come back to power with a slender majority, according to a Telegraph-STAR News opinion poll conducted on the 83 seats that go to the polls on May 5.

The BJP is also expected to better its tally in the 30 seats of Uttar Pradesh which are part of the third phase and sweep Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, while the National Democratic Alliance is projected to do an encore in Bihar.

According to the survey, the NDA could consolidate the lead it gained based on The Telegraph-STAR News projections for the first and second rounds and secure 267-279 seats, which takes it within striking distance of power at worst or returns it to office with a slim majority.

The Congress and its allies are projected to clock a tally of 169 to 181 seats and other parties 88 to 100 seats.

The opinion poll revealed that Atal Bihari Vajpayee still tops the popularity charts with a 54 per cent rating while Congress president Sonia Gandhi comes a distant second with only 23 per cent. In a strange twist, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar has a 1 per cent lead over other candidates polled for the top job, like L.K. Advani, Manmohan Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda, Jyoti Basu and I.K. Gujral.

To a question whether the respondents were aware of media reports and pre-poll surveys and exit polls forecasting a hung Parliament, 59 per cent replied ‘yes’ and 41 per cent ‘no’. When queried on what option they would favour in this scenario, 27 per cent rooted for a BJP-led coalition with new partners, 22 per cent for “others”, 20 percent for a third front government with the BJP’s outside support and 18 per cent with the Congress’ outside support. Only 13 per cent endorsed a Congress and third front combine.

In the state-wise assessment, the poll showed that the BJP is expected to bag the majority — 13 of the 30 seats going to the polls in UP. This means it will get five seats more than it did in 1999 in the west-central and Avadh regions, which include prestigious constituencies like Lucknow, from where Vajpayee is contesting, and Allahabad (Murli Manohar Joshi).

The Congress, which won two seats from the area last time, is projected to double its tally as well as increase its vote share to 21 per cent. The other big players — Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party — are slated to get nine and four seats, respectively. At the end of polling for 62 seats, the BJP, according to this survey, will get 26 seats as against nine for the Congress.

Of the 12 seats in Bihar, the NDA is expected to win eight and the Congress-RJD three. In Rajasthan, the BJP is projected to get 18 of the 25 seats, up two from 1999, and the Congress seven. In MP, the survey forecasts a BJP sweep, 10 out of 12 in this phase.

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