The shape of political allegiances across the country kept shifting on Thursday, as long-term allies fell apart, bickering furiously over specific seats, while long-term foes exchanged notes and evolved common strategies.
The Congress-NCP tie-up in Maharashtra, which seemed all stitched up on Wednesday, lay in tatters, with the Congress suspecting a sinister hidden motive behind the NCP's demand for 23 seats against the 21 - of a total of 48 - it contested in the last Lok Sabha poll.
In Kolkata, the tussle in Congress circles over West Bengal's 42 Lok Sabha seats intensified after the pact with the Trinamool Congress, with leaders trying to ensure their safe seats would not be bartered away.
Congress sources claimed they were satisfied with the seat sharing formula. It was the specific seats Trinamool chief Mamata Bannerjee agreed to concede that were the problem. Most of them were in impregnable Left Front fortresses that Congress was almost certain to lose.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress leaders said they had warned their high command that behind the NCP's recent hobnobbing with the Shiv Sena lay devious strategy.
"They are going to use the Shiv Sena to undermine the Congress," said a Maharashtrian AICC joint secretary. "The game plan is for Sena candidates to cause maximum damage to the Congress wherever we have a candidate, and to help the NCP wherever they are contesting."
If the Congress is worried about the NCP, the BJP is fretting over the Shiv Sena's intentions. On Thursday, to the BJP's shock, Shiv Sena MP Bharat Raut declared his party would back a Maharashtrian as prime minister after the polls, even though the BJP has been pushing for LK Advani.
Sources said arch opponents BJP leader Gopinath Munde and former Congress chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh held a secret meeting in Latur on Wednesday to discuss their allies' waywardness and, if possible, take pre-emptive steps.
"They both decided to stick to their guns and not give either NCP or Shiv Sena any more seats than they deserve," the source said.
BJP, AGP seal pact
The BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) finally announced their alliance, which had been long in the making. Of the state's 14 seats, the BJP will contest eight and the AGP, six.
Asked if the AGP had formally joined the NDA, BJP president Rajnath Singh said: "Of course, they are now part of NDA". The AGP had joined hands with BJP before the 2001 Assembly elections in Assam but parted ways after a defeat in the hands of Congress.