Mumbai: Barely an hour after the BJP announced it was splitting with the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP ended its 15-year-old alliance with the Congress and declared it would "go it alone" in the Maharashtra elections against "communal forces".
The NCP also quit the Congress-led government in the state, reducing it to a minority. Withdrawing support, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar blamed Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for the split, saying the NCP was never neglected by previous Congress chief minsters.
The Congress did not pull any punches either. "Some parties were looking to see if they could get power at the Centre. The coordination committee of the two parties has met. From that day the NCP wanted 30 more seats. They also wanted the Chief Minister's post," said Mr Chavan.
Without naming the parties, the Chief Minister was alleging that the NCP and the BJP have been in touch to discuss political realignments. The NCP has stoutly denied this.
Like the saffron block, the state's ruling allies had been locked in a battle over seats for the October 15 elections for Maharashtra's 288 seats. The Congress announcement of its first list of 118 candidates last night was the last straw, said the NCP, describing it as a shock.
"We didn't even know about the first list of the Congress," said Sunil Tatkare, the state NCP chief. "They declared candidates for even those seats that we were discussing with them."
The rift was centred around the NCP's demand first for 144 or half the seats and after tough negotiations at least 135 seats. It had also suggested that the Chief Minister's post be held in rotation if the alliance came to power. The Congress was ready to concede only 124 seats.
The two parties have been allies not only in Maharashtra but also at the Centre. The NCP was a part of the Congress-led UPA government that ruled at the centre for a decade before it was uprooted by the BJP in national elections this year.