The BJP could emerge as the single-largest party in Uttar Pradesh and get within striking distance of the majority mark in what is seen to be a hung assembly, exit polls said on Thursday.
Two exit polls gave the BJP a clear advantage over its nearest rival, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, while two others predicted a close fight between the two formations. The Bahujan Samaj Party was seen as a distant third in all four exit polls available.
The marathon seven-phase election in India’s most-populous state was billed as a virtual semifinal to the general elections in two years.
Results for the 403-member assembly are out on March 11. The halfway mark is 202.
Exit polls have frequently gone wrong in the past, including in Bihar and Delhi in 2015. Analysts say that states with diverse populations and complex caste, community and religious affiliations tend to throw pollsters off.
A good showing by the BJP will be a boost for the central government as the month-long polls were seen to be a referendum for key decisions such as the scrapping of high-value currency and strikes on militant bases across the Line of Control.
The BJP has been out of power in the politically crucial state for more than a decade.
The NewsX -MRC poll gave the BJP 185 seats, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance 120 and the Bahujan Samaj Party 90.
The Times Now-VMR poll gave the BJP between 190 and 210 seats, the SP-Congress combine between 110 and 130 seats and the BSP between 57 and 74 seats.
The ABP-CSDS poll gave the BJP 164-176 seats, the SP-Congress 155-169 and the BSP 60-72 seats. The IndiaTV-CVoter polls forecast 155-167 seats to the BJP, 135-147 to the SP-Congress and 81-93 to the BSP.
The elections were also seen as a personal prestige fight for incumbent chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who overcame a family feud and forged an alliance with the Congress.
For BSP chief Mayawati – who lost in the 2012 state polls and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections -- a third defeat can prove disastrous.
The polls in UP will also have a bearing on upcoming presidential elections and the Rajya Sabha, where the opposition is in a majority.
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