It’s a free world. You can believe any number.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance is clearly ahead of the National Democratic Alliance, although neither alliance is united or national, and the Congress will emerge the single largest party in the 2009 general elections.

A pre-poll survey by AC Neilsen for Star News shows the Congress-led UPA almost 73 seats in front of the BJP-led NDA. Even if Laloo Prasad‘s RJD, Mulayam Singh‘s Samajwadi Party, and Ram Vilas Paswan‘s LJP desert the UPA, the alliance will end up with 210 seats, 24 more than the NDA.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation by editors of the Daily News & Analysis (DNA) newspaper (below) shows the Congress and its allies at 184, versus 177 for the BJP and its allies. Others account for 182.

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Graphic: courtesy DNA