As most exit polls on Thursday evening showed the BJP ahead in Uttar Pradesh but short of the 202 seats it needs to form government, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav appeared to do a clever u-turn, saying his Samajwadi Party is open to tie-up with arch-rival Mayawati if no party gets a majority.
A poll of exit polls at 7 pm based on an average of four surveys showed the BJP getting 179 seats in UP, which has 403 assembly seats. It showed the Samajwadi Party-Congress getting 136 seats and Mayawati Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 77.
Akhilesh Yadav, who had only days ago ruled out a post-poll alliance with the BSP, has been quoted by BBC Hindi today as saying that if there is a hung assembly in the state on Saturday, when results will be announced, he will prefer a partnership with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party over President's Rule in the state to prevent "remote control rule by the BJP," which heads the central government.
"I have always treated the BSP (Mayawati's party) with respect, so it's natural for people to assume we may seek her help. It's difficult to say at this point. I am confident the Congress-SP alliance will win," Akhilesh Yadav said.
The India News - MRC exit poll has this evening given the BJP 185 seats, the ABP News-Lokniti poll gives it 164-176 and India TV- C-voter shows the party getting 155-167 seats. The Times Now - VMR poll predicts the BJP will get between 190 to 210 seats, the upper end of which will get the party past the half-way mark.
Akhilesh Yadav's alliance is placed at number two in UP by all exit polls, with ABP News-Lokniti giving it the best shot at 156-169 seats.
Akhilesh Yadav came out of a family feud that saw him dethrone his father Mulayam Singh Yadav as Samajwadi Party chief, to seek re-election in partnership with the Congress.
Results will be declared for UP and four other states on Saturday, March 11.