A new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) survey predicts a victory for the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls this year but says a coalition led by former prime minister VP Singh is fast gaining ground.
The survey puts the BJP ahead of all other parties and gives it around 160 of the 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
At the same time, it says, the VP Singh-Raj Babbar-led Jan Morcha, in likely alliance with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the little known Muslim outfit, United Democratic Front (UDF), could be major gainers.
A BJP leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the survey was conducted on January 23 simultaneously in three states going to the polls this year, the other two being Punjab and Uttarakhand.
In the 2002 assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party came first by winning 144 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) second with 109 seats and the BJP, which had then been ruling the state, came third with just 87 seats.
The BJP leader said in the previous survey conducted in September-October, the party was trailing in the third position in Uttar Pradesh, with the BSP standing first and the Samajwadi Party second.
But the whole scenario underwent a sea change after the municipal elections in the state in November-December last year in which the BJP won in most major cities, the source said.
The new survey alludes to a change of perception among the people that the BJP is in a position to provide an alternative to the "corrupt, criminal" government of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.
But the BJP leader admitted that the most surprising element of the survey was the Jan Morcha-RLD-UDF combine gaining credibility among the people. The report says the coalition could get as many as 50 seats in the next Uttar Pradesh assembly.
In 1993, VP Singh, then heading the Janata Dal, had withdrawn from the assembly elections halfway through the campaign to avoid a split in the secular vote right after the Babri mosque demolition.
But after the 2004 general election, he again regrouped his Jan Morcha and after Raj Babbar broke away from the Samajwadi Party, the two got together to campaign vigorously in the state, notwithstanding the former prime minister's debilitating kidney ailment.
As for Punjab, where the BJP is contesting only 23 seats in alliance with the Akali Dal, the survey gives the BJP 17 seats, predicting a complete wipe out of the ruling Congress party. Elections to the 117-seat assembly there are due in February.
A similar scenario has been predicted by the survey in Uttarakhand where it has given the BJP 50 out of the total 70 seats in the February polls. The state is currently ruled by the Congress.