New Delhi: The ruling United Progressive Alliance appears to have emerged as the single largest grouping in exit polls for the Lok Sabha elections, with the National Democratic Alliance not far behind, opening up the possibility of a key role for small parties in government formation.

Projecting a highly fractured verdict, the surveys by TV channels at the end of the fifth and final phase of polling in the month-long exercise on Wednesday placed the Third Front at a little over 100 seats.

Projections for 196 seats in six states on NDTV placed the UPA ahead at 77 seats against 72 for the NDA, 39 for the Third Front, six for the fourth front and ‘Others’ two.

Headlines Today channel gave the Congress and its allies 191 seats, against 180 to the BJP and its allies. The Left parties, which played a crucial role in the outgoing Lok Sabha with 60 seats, has been projected to get 38, while ‘Others,’ including the BSP, are set to get 134 in a House of 543.

In its projections, ‘India TV’ channel said the UPA would get around 195 seats and it could go up to 227 if 32 seats of the RJD, the LJP and the SP are added.

The channel has given the NDA 189 and the Third Front 113. ‘Others’ are projected to get 14 seats.

Exit polls had been way off the mark in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, with most of them projecting the BJP-led NDA as the winner, which did not turn out to be correct.

Ultimately, in the 2004 elections, the Congress and its pre-poll allies got 216 seats against a projection ranging from 170 to 205 seats. The BJP-led NDA secured 187 seats against the projections of over 240 to 250 seats. — PTI