New Delhi, Jan. 29: Laloo Prasad Yadav's regime may yet scrape through but he is no longer the most popular leader in Bihar, according to an opinion poll.
The Telegraph-STAR News opinion poll, carried out by AC Nielsen, reaffirms an earlier indication that Laloo Prasad could pay a high price for not allying with the Congress and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party.
But the survey has thrown up a surprise: Paswan has pulled ahead of Laloo Prasad as the most favoured candidate for chief minister. Twenty-four per cent of the respondents picked Paswan as their favourite while 22 per cent opted for Laloo Prasad. The incumbent, Rabri Devi, trails both with 18 per cent.
According to the opinion poll, Laloo Prasad's RJD and its Left allies may win 96 seats ' 26 short of majority. Compared with another survey in the first half of January, the RJD has slipped in as many as 12 seats.
The new opinion poll was conducted between January 18 and 24 among 32,000 voters in 158 constituencies spread across the three states ' Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana ' going to polls from February 3.
Laloo Prasad's rival BJP combine is expected to win 85 seats ' a gain of seven over the last opinion poll. Paswan's party adds five seats to its earlier projected tally.
The Congress, which had bailed out Laloo Prasad last time and is expected to support him this time also should the need arise, held its ground with 20 seats. If the final outcome tallies with the survey projections, Laloo Prasad will still need the support of six more legislators.
Laloo Prasad flew into more trouble today with a poll code violation case being filed against him in BJP-ruled Jharkhand. A complaint said his chopper landed in a school playground, the venue of a campaign meeting, in Garhwa district, instead of a strip near a circuit house.