part of a staggered poll that involves an estimated 605 million voters. Indians, hoping to end two years of instability, are sill groping for a solution as a listless election campaign comes to its finale, a new opinion poll at the weekend showed. Political leaders and experts said that election fatigue, a lack of evocative issues and ultimately little to chose between the political formations have marked the month-long campaign. "This is an election, you see it and you don't see it," said Rajesh Pilot, former Congress minister and now a candidate for parliament from the desert state of Rajasthan state. Debate over the various brands of economic liberalisation pledged by the various parties has been low-key and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's manifesto promise to develop nuclear weapons has failed to enliven the campaign. Instead, the most bitter exchanges between rivals have been over a years-old arms procurement scandal. The BJP continues to be the frontrunner. But, despite softening up its religious rhetoric and tying up a string of alliances with regional parties, opinion polls show it will still fall short of a clear majority. By contrast, the BJP's arch-rival, the once-mighty Congress party, has sprung back after Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, hit the campaign trail after seven years of seclusion. Sonia, a surviving member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that ruled India for 38 of its 50 years of independence, has "halted the BJP juggernaut", the new poll published in the weekly Outlook magazine said. The poll, conducted by A.C. Nielsen, said the BJP and its allies would end up with 231 seats, the Congress and its allies with 149 and the United Front multi-party alliance which fell from power two months ago, with 123 seats. None of the three major formations reach the magic figure of 272 seats required in the lower house to form a government. After a fragmented verdict in elections two years ago, Congress agreed to support a United Front alliance of regional, caste-based parties, communists and free-marketeers. But it was an uneasy partnership, with Congress forcing the coalition to change its prime minister and finally pulling the rug from underneath the coalition in November 1997. Since then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral -- whose own Janata Dal party has split in two key states -- has led a caretaker government. Voting is spread over February 16, 22, 28 and March 7 to allow for maximum security cover in each region. If the BJP wins the number of seats the polls are predicting, the country's president would have to offer the party a chance to rule. Unless it can muster support from others in parliament, however, the party could face the same fate that it did after 1996, when its grip on power crumbled after just 12 days.