After five months of fruitless seat-sharing talks, Mayawati on Thursday served up a double whammy for the Congress - a tie-up with its rebel Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh and names for 22 seats in Madhya Pradesh.
In the middle of her negotiations with the Congress over seats in Madhya Pradesh, Mayawati has announced a list of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates for nearly a 10th of the state's 230 seats.
Some of those seats are in Morena and Shivpuri, the strongholds of Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Congress's campaign panel chief in the state.
"We are not sure why BSP did this. We were not expecting the announcement. Talks with the BSP were still on," a top Congress leader told NDTV. "We will have to see what happens".
Just last week, Kamal Nath had expressed confidence of a tie-up and had told NDTV: "We should have a deal in the next ten days."
After months of squabbling with the Congress over "respect for her party" in a potential tie-up, Mayawati's message is loud and clear - she will not be bullied into accepting a lesser or insignificant share.
A senior Congress leader told NDTV that Mayawati's announcement makes things "very, very difficult" for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, where it is hoping to end the BJP's 15-year rule. "Most of the seats that have been announced are in Scindia's stronghold so it seems to be a message to the top brass of the state," said the leader.
Congress sources say they haven't lost hope. "A tie-up with Mayawati may still happen. It's just that she has introduced a new bargaining chip," said a source.
Dalits make up around 15 per cent of Madhya Pradesh and a highly weakened and faction-ridden Congress could use Mayawati's help. Some believe it is the only way the party can return to power in the state.
Mayawati, a Dalit powerhouse, started negotiations with 50 of the state's 230 seats. Sources say the talks were stuck at the point where the Congress refused to part with more than 30.
"They wanted 50 seats when we started talking, but are being more reasonable now, seeing what's at stake and that we share a common goal of defeating the BJP," Kamal Nath had said.
Soon after Mayawati's statement this evening, Kamal Nath went into a huddle with top Congress leaders.
Election Results for Lok Sabha Election 2019 will be out on May 23. Get the latest election news and live updates on ndtv.com/elections. Catch all the action on NDTV Live. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for news updates from each of the 543 parliamentary seats for the election 2019