The much-flaunted unity of the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) or the Third Front received its first jolt on Tuesday after Rajendra Gawai of RPI-Gawai called off his alliance with the RLDF. His faction is now set to contest 15 seats in Vidarbha.

Mr. Gawai told TheHindu, differences over the issue of the AB form, which nominates a party's candidate, prompted him to call it quits. He said Ramdas Athawale, under whose leadership the RLDF was formed, demanded the resignation of RPI-Gawais workers and their integration into the Front if the AB form for Gawai's faction was used. So, "we parted on friendly terms," Mr. Gawai said.

At a press conference here, Mr. Athawale said the parting would not affect the Front's unity. He said Mr. Gawai had, at the last minute, submitted that his faction be allowed to contest 25 seats on a separate AB form. He said Mr. Gawai had been uncomfortable about the alliance from the start. Noted poet Namdeo Dhasal, who is contesting on the Front's ticket, said that the alliance had already decided on a policy of "one party, one AB form."

Mr. Gawai's father R.S. Gawai is the Governor of Kerala. Mr. Athawale pointed to the possibility of pressure from the Congress.

RPI-Athawale has come out with its first list of 36 candidates. The faction will contest 10 seats in Maharashtra. The list includes ex-MLA Sayyed Salim Ali for Beed and other prominent names like Adv. Sulekha Kumbhare for Kamptee, Upendra Shende for Nagpur (North), Manoj Sansare for Sion Koliwada, Avinash Mahatekar for Kurla, Shyam Gaikwad for Ambernath, Deepak Nikalje for Chembur and Gautam Sonavne for Anushakti Nagar.

Becoming a rebel, Adv. Gautam Bhalerao of RPI-Gawai would be contesting on the RLDF ticket from Udgeer.

Mr. Athawale used the occasion to take a dig at prominent leader Prakash Ambedkar of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh. He said, Mr. Ambedkar had derided him for associating with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar. However, Mr. Ambedkar was himself having meetings with NCP leader R.R. Patil.

The Front's leaders asserted that their aim was to change the face of the RPI with the multi-party unity. Mr. Athawale said while the intention was to give maximum seats to Dalit candidates, other communities would also be represented. He pointed out that Parmeshwar Mahadu Chowdhary, who is set to contest from Alegaon, is from the Maratha community.

Sena hopes to staunch rebellion

Special Correspondent reports:

Faced with mounting rebellion in its cadres, the Shiv Sena hopes to staunch it once the list of its 169 candidates is released. Party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe on Tuesday warned of stern action against rebels. She also said that no rebel candidate had filed nomination papers till now. Some of the rebels have assured the party that they will not contest the Assembly elections.

Upset at not being given the ticket from Anushakti nagar, Rahul Shevale, a corporator, met Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday. Ms. Gorhe told journalists that Pradip Jaiswal, former Sena MP who quit the party from Aurangabad, was a mayor and given other important posts. He was also given the ticket to contest Assembly elections in the past. Even recently, when Mr. Thackeray was on his pre-election tour, Mr. Jaiswal spent two days with him.

Ms. Gorhe said Mr. Jaiswal was making misleading allegations about the way the party treated him.

Mr. Jaiswal came down heavily on Mr. Thackeray's personal assistant Milind Narvekar saying that he prevented him from meeting the executive president.