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Hung spectre looms over Laloo

New Delhi, Feb. 15: Bihar and Jharkhand are headed for hung assemblies, according to the projections of an opinion poll.

The Telegraph-Star News exit poll, carried out by AC Nielsen during the second phase of polling in the two states today, suggests that BJP-Janata Dal (United) combine could make a strong comeback but not enough to claim the crown.

In Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav's RJD and its Left allies could end up with 91 seats in the 243-member Assembly, one seat more than the expected tally of 90 for the BJP-Dal(United) combine.

Projected to command 29 seats in the next Assembly, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party could play the kingmaker's role.

Smaller parties and Independents, who together could account for as many as 24 seats, are also expected to call the shots.

The Congress may end up the loser as the party is not projected to retain the 11 seats it had in the outgoing Assembly.

In the 82 seats that saw voting today in Bihar, the BJP combine may bag 33 seats while the RJD and its Left allies are expected to win 21 seats.

The Congress and the Lok Janshakti Party, which made a concerted bid to get the better of the RJD in a large number of Muslim-dominated north Bihar constituencies that went to polls today, may not be happy with the projections.

The two parties may have to be content with single-digit returns from today's contest -- the projection for the LJP is 9 seats whereas it is six for the Congress.

The exit poll trends after the second round of polling also showed the BJP-Dal(United) combine gaining more ground since the first round of polling on February 3.

The projections then had given the NDA partners 86 seats - four less than the latest forecast.

In Jharkhand, the projections indicate that the ruling BJP alliance is locked in a neck-and-neck race with the opposition JMM-Congress partnership.

The overall projections based on the two exit polls give the two camps 36 seats each in the 81-member Assembly -- each side falling five short of the simple majority mark of 41.

The RJD, which has allied with the Left in Jharkhand, too, may not be in a position to bail out the Congress-JMM combine on its own as it may account for only three seats in the new Assembly.

The projected post-poll scenario may be tailor-made for JMM leader Sibu Soren to claim the crown. As many as six independents are expected to win. The Congress and its JMM ally are perceived to lose the considerable advantage they seemingly had over the BJP group at the beginning of the battle.

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