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JMM still ahead, just
- BJP catching up, says opinion poll

New Delhi, Jan. 29: The JMM-Congress alliance is still ahead in the battle for Jharkhand but the BJP combine has sharply narrowed the gap, according to an opinion poll.

The Telegraph-STAR News opinion poll, carried out by AC Nielsen, suggests that the JMM-Congress partnership could end up with a tally of 41 ' the simple majority mark ' against the ruling group's 31.

However, compared with the outcome of an opinion poll conducted in the first half of this month, the new projections indicate that the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) have regained some of the ground.

The last poll had forecast that the ruling combine would win 17 seats, which has almost doubled in the new survey ' conducted between January 18 and 24. The swing has seen the JMM alliance's projected number of seats going down to 41 ' the bare minimum needed to come to power.

The maximum number of respondents felt that JMM leader Shibu Soren to be the best candidate for chief minister. This suggests that the BJP's 'tainted minister' campaign against Soren has not had any big impact on the voters. Former chief minister Babulal Marandi has the support of 25 per cent for the chief minister's post. Current chief minister Arjun Munda ranks a couple of notches lower with 21 per cent support.

The opinion poll was conducted among 32,000 voters in 158 constituencies spread across the three states ' Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana ' going to polls from February 3.

In Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav is in trouble, but it is not serious enough to strip him of the reins of control. The survey indicates that the Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance may fall just short of a majority in Bihar.

In Haryana, the Congress is tipped to snatch power from the ruling Indian National Lok Dal. In Bihar, the RJD with its Left allies may win only 96 seats ' 26 short of a majority of 122. Laloo Prasad's rival combine, the BJP-Dal(U), is likely to win 85 seats. The Congress, which is going it alone, may end up with 20 seats. Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Jan Shakti Party is expected to get 27 seats.

FIR against Laloo

The Garhwa administration today booked RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav under sections 279, 188, 290 and 291 of the IPC and section 3/4 of the Representation of People's Act for violating the model code of conduct.

RJD legislature party leader Girinath Singh and Yadav's pilot too figure as co-accused in this case. Garhwa deputy commissioner S.N. Thakur said as per the programme, Yadav's chopper was due to land near the circuit house but it landed on the playground of Govind High School ' the meeting venue.

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