UPA surges ahead in India’s battle for power (Lead)

May 16th, 2009 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) forged ahead Saturday in the race for power in the world’s largest democracy, taking early leads in 159 of the 346 Lok Sabha constituencies.
The Congress-led UPA appeared to be performing a shade better than predicted by exit polls, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead in 107 seats. The Lok Sabha has 545 seats.

In a dramatic change of fortunes, both the Congress and BJP were picking up seats in Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and where the main opposition is the Samajwadi Party.

According to Election Commission officials, candidates of the Third Front, made up of the Communists and regional parties, were ahead of others in 54 seats.

Two of the Third Front’s key partners - the BSP and Communists - were losing seats in their strongholds.

The Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) were on the winning track in 19 seats, all in populous Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Smaller parties were ahead in five seats across the country.

Among the prominent candidates set to get elected to the 15th Lok Sabha were central ministers Kamal Nath, P. Chidamabaram and Renuka Chowdhury of the Congress, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Janata Dal-Secular leader and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Prada, a former actor, was trailing in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to Noor Bano of the Congress, which appeared to be making a dramatic comeback in the country’s most populous state.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) was leading in most seats over the Communists in Kerala. The Left Front was also faring poorly in West Bengal, which the Communists have ruled since 1977.

The Shiv Sena was trailing in its bastion Maharashtra, which elects the second largest bloc of 48 Lok Sabha MPs after Uttar Pradesh’s 80.

Political pundits have predicted a hung 545-member Lok Sabha. Most of the results are expected by midday.

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