They aren't quite pollsters, but astrologers are pundits for all seasons in India. And days before votes for the 15th Lok Sabha are counted May 16, they predict "a hung house" and say the stars are shining for smaller parties.
"Neither the Congress nor the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be able to form a government. The Congress at the most will get 135-140 seats, while the BJP might gain marginally with 165 seats," Delhi-based astrologer Prem Kumar Sharma, a popular television commentator on spirituality and astrology, told IANS.
"The Third Front and the smaller parties will play an important role in forming the government as the alliances will hunt for new friends."
He said the prime minister would not be able to continue and the churning might throw up a "surprise prime ministerial candidate". "But the Third or Fourth (whatever you call it) Front will play an important role," Sharma said.
He said the mandate would be "indecisive" because the planet Venus was in ascendance, along with its attendant moon.
Commenting on the personal horoscope of the leaders, he said the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani might come very close to power, but would miss it by a whisker.
"The position of the Saturn in his personal horoscope is powerful, but it will not get him to the hot seat this time. The day he filed his nomination was not good," Sharma said.
He also foresees "trouble after the first quarter of the formation of the new government".
"There will be another election in two years' time which will bring a stable government," Sharma explained. The time and the date of announcing the polls were not auspicious, the astrologer said. The financial condition would, however, improve.
Acharya Chakradhar, a spiritualist and astrologer, also predicts another poll. "The country may face another election in 2011," he said.
The astrologer, who feels that Congress president Sonia Gandhi's personal horoscope is strong enough to guide the party through the political melee, advises the country to guard its southern borders.
"There will be a coalition government, but the new dispensation will have to strengthen the country's armed forces," Chakradhar told IANS.
According to him, the presence of Mars will help fortify the country's borders. "There are possibilities of large scale violence in the south - the southern part of the country and in the southern part of troubled states.
"In general, the south will be in peril unlike in 2008 when I had predicted that the west would be under attack," he said. Mumbai, which is in western India, suffered a deadly terror strike in November last year.
However, Saturn has moved out of the country's zodiac map in December after the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks, he said. He also said the economy is on the road to recovery since March 2009.
Maharaj Shivanand Mishra, an astrologer and priest, said the aligning of Jupiter and Neptune between May and July may enable new power blocs to make inroads into politics.
"They will be fence-sitters. They can topple the government any time. But given the shape of the things to come, the government cannot do without them," he said.
India's five-phase polls began April 16 and ended May 13. Counting of votes will take place on Saturday.