NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has picked up support since naming Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as its candidate for prime minister last month, but would need new allies to form the next government, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
Modi, three times chief minister of the coastal state of Gujarat, was put forward by India's main opposition party in August, cementing the rise of a leader who many think is capable of turning round India's economy but who remains tainted by deadly religious riots that broke out on his watch in 2002.
The ruling Congress party has led a coalition government for nearly a decade but is headed for its worst electoral performance since at least 1999 as it battles allegations of corruption, the survey showed.
The survey, conducted by pollsters Team Cvoter for two television networks, forecasts the BJP will pick up 162 seats. The last Cvoter survey conducted in August, before Modi was named, forecast the party would get 130 seats, up from the 116 it holds now.
The Congress tally would drop to 102 seats from the 206 it now holds in the 545-member lower house of parliament if voting in the election were to reflect the poll, conducted for the India TV and Times Now networks.
A coalition led by the BJP is expected to win 186 seats, meaning the BJP would have to find new allies among regional parties if it were to form a government. To rule, a party needs the support of 272 members of parliament.
The BJP and Congress are India's largest national parties but political power has shifted in recent years to smaller regional or state-level parties, making them kingmakers during coalition building and giving them more influence over policy.
Modi is credited with helping Gujarat's economy achieve average yearly growth in the double digits in the past decade and he is popular among many wealthy businessmen.
But he remains a polarizing figure even within his own party and some analysts believe he would struggle to cobble together a coalition.
A federal government beholden to regional parties with their own diverse agendas could be fragile and unwieldy, making it harder for any government to manage Asia's third-largest economy, whose growth rate has already slowed to a decade low after a period of policy paralysis.
The world's largest democracy is due to hold its largest ever general election by May.
Elections are notoriously hard to predict in India, which has very complex demographics.
The Cvoter study was based on a national sample of 24,284 randomly selected respondents. The data was collected between August 16 and October 15 - the period four weeks before and four weeks after Modi was declared as the BJP's candidate.
(Reporting by Malini Menon; writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)