A pre-poll arrangement for Uttar Pradesh continues to elude the Congress and Ajit Singh's RLD, but other parties have initiated backdoor negotiations for fresh alliances ahead of the polls next year.
At his campaign launch rally from Etah on Wednesday, SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav expressed no rancour towards the Congress, fuelling speculation about a possible formal or informal tie-up with the party.
"The SP is also talking to a faction of the Peace Party and working out arrangements with other political groups," a senior party leader said.
The deal with the Congress being uncertain, the RLD is understood to have opened backdoor channels with the BJP, with which it had a pre-poll pact in 2007. Sections within the Congress feel not having a pact with the RLD might not actually be a disadvantage if Singh goes with the BJP.
The RLD's bargaining for ministerial berths (important cabinet portfolio for Ajit Singh and a minister of state berth for son Jayant Chaudhary) has been the roadblock for a tie-up with the Congress.
But, amid hard bargaining, both parties are still talking. "If the arrangement (with the RLD) works out, the Congress will reach the 100 figure mark in the 403-member UP assembly," a senior Congress leader said.
One section within the RLD favours a go-it-alone strategy, hoping for a better bargaining position after the elections.
Meanwhile, major parties are on an acquisition and merger overdrive targeting an assortment of small political outfits.
The Kranti Dal, a coalition of small outfits set up in February, has virtually disintegrated and the groups are exploring options. The Apna Dal (a grouping of the Kurmi caste) has been moving closer to the Congress, while the Mahaan Dal (a group of the Mauryas) is exploring possibilities of aligning either with the BSP or the Congress.