The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is expected to win 152 to 168 seats, perhaps more, in a fractured 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, a survey said on Wednesday following the close of staggered elections.
But the ruling Samajwadi Party will do better than expected despite a wave against poor governance and could end up at the second spot with 99 to 111 seats, said the survey published in the Indian Express.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which at one time was poised to be the runner-up, would get 80 to 90 seats, its lowest tally since 1989. The Congress was unlikely to greatly improve upon its 2002 showing and would have 25 to 33 seats in its kitty.
Despite a projected hung house, the survey jointly carried out jointly by the Express, CNN-IBN and CSDS said BSP leader Mayawati had enough reasons to smile.
"Widely seen as the frontrunner right from the beginning, she managed to finish the race on a high note in the eastern part of the state," said the survey, referring to the region that voted in the last and seventh leg of the elections on Tuesday.
The BSP's 29 per cent vote share would not give the party a majority in the legislature but provide it a handsome tally, making it the single largest outfit in Uttar Pradesh for the first time.
This would make the BSP the first to be invited to form a government.
"If the survey findings suffer from a serious response bias, if the BSP voters have been less willing to disclose their voting preference, the party would do even better than projected here," the survey said.
The Samajwadi Party, it said, appeared to have done well after a bad start in the elections. Nevertheless, its tally would be much less than what it secured in 2002 when it formed a government in the country's most populous state.
The survey findings are a disappointment to the Congress, which had pumped in its star campaigners- party chief Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka in a desperate bid to revive the party in a state where it once held sway.
But the survey said the 25 odd seats the party would pick up could give it hope that it could play a key role in government formation.
The Express said the survey findings were "informed estimates" and the reality would be known only Friday, when the 50 million votes cast in the elections that began April 7 will be taken up for counting.