Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh was headed for a hung verdict on Tuesday with the Samajwadi Party (SP) leading the four-horse race but expected to fall short of a majority to form a government on its own.

The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which swept to power in 2007 winning a staggering 206 seats, was headed for a near rout, officials said here. The Congress was trailing in the fourth spot.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surged ahead dramatically, mainly in urban centres, with its candidates leading in 59 constituencies.

But the BJP quickly made it clear that it would not back any coalition government in the state and that its decision to prop the BSP thrice in the past was "a big mistake".

The Congress was in for a shock in the sprawling state, with the aggressive campaigning by its star Rahul Gandhi failing to make an impact even in the party strongholds Rae Bareli and Amethi.

Election Commission sources said Congress candidates were trailing in all five Rae Bareli seats and also in Jagdishpur in neighbouring Amethi.

Rae Bareli and Amethi are represented in the Lok Sabha by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and its general secretary Rahul Gandhi respectively.

SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was closeted at his residence in the heart of Lucknow as counting trends from 292 of the 403 constituencies showed the party was on the victory lap in 124 seats after some two hours of vote count.

SP, which had only 97 seats in the outgoing house, was picking up seats all across the country's most populous state, officials said.

This trend, pundits said, would give the party 175 to 182 seats, far short of the half-way number needed to form a government.

SP leaders declined to say whose support they might take if they were called upon to form a government.

In contrast to the first house of voting when the BJP had dramatically forged ahead of Chief Minister Mayawati's BSP, the two were neck and neck after two hours, leading in 59 and 57 seats respectively.

But while the BJP had snatched 17 seats from others, the BSP had dropped a staggering 80-plus seats.

Political pundits said both parties could end up having between 75 and 84 seats in the 403-member house.

The Congress made only marginal gains, with its candidates on the victory lap in only 35 seats.

Among the major players leading in Uttar Pradesh were Shivpal Singh Yadav (SP), Congress state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Swami Prasad Maurya (BSP) and Kalraj Mishra (BJP).