Feb. 3: Laloo Prasad Yadav is stumbling in his pocket boroughs and the BJP combine is making inroads there, suggests an exit poll after the first phase of elections today.
The exit poll, carried out by AC Nielsen for The Telegraph and STAR News, has projected for Laloo Prasad's alliance 28 of the 64 seats that went to polls today ' a loss of five seats from the last elections.
Several of the areas that went to polls today are counted among Laloo Prasad's strongholds.
The BJP combine is expected to win 21 seats in this phase, gaining three. Laloo Prasad's bitter rival, Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP, also seemed to be on a strong wicket.
Worked out on the basis of the trend in the first phase, overall projections suggest that Laloo Prasad Yadav could lose a fourth of the 123 seats he holds in the outgoing 243-member Assembly.
According to the exit poll, the BJP-Janata Dal (United) combine might bag almost as many seats as that of the RJD and its Left allies, signalling a close race for power after the elections.
If the final tally matches the projections, Laloo Prasad will need the help of Paswan or Independents.
Some analysts felt that a large number of voters from the minority community ' who had stood by Laloo Prasad but are said to be restive now ' could have voted for non-RJD 'secular' candidates today. If this is proved true, it will mean that the famed Muslim-Yadav combination has suffered a dent.
However, in an ironic twist, the RJD is banking on the grim forecasts to carry it through in the remaining two rounds of polling on February 15 and 23.
The party is hoping that the fear of a BJP resurgence will compel the minority community to rally around him in the next two phases.
Besides, in the remaining seats the population of Yadavs ' Laloo Prasad's captive votebank 'has swelled between 4 and 5 per cent, a factor which might enable him to neutralise the other negative features.