The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a key ally of the UPA, is quietly expanding its base in Maharashtra to cut the Congress to size.
After becoming a dominant force in western Maharashtra, union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar's party is now making deep inroads into the Congress bastion of Vidarbha region. It is already on an equal footing with Congress in Khandesh and Marathwada.
Mumbai - a traditional stronghold of the Congress party - has also been on the NCP radar for a long time now.
In a bid to inflict maximum damage on the Congress in Vidarbha, the NCP did not even mind joining hands with the "communal" BJP and the Shiv Sena in the recent local bodies' elections. The Congress is visibly nervous.
State Congress leaders have repeatedly taken up Pawar's expansion plans with the central leadership. The status of Congress-NCP ties was the main point of discussion at a recent meeting between Rahul Gandhi and his party MPs.
The two parties have been in a battle of one-upmanship in Maharashtra ever since they came together to form a coalition government in the state in 1999. While the NCP has often accused the Congress of violating the 'coalition dharma', the latter has tried to shift the blame for the price rise on Pawar - even targeting him over the Lavasa project near Pune.