Staff Reporter

Mumbai: 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 The Hindu, 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.

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 NCP leader Sharad Pawar. However, Mr. Ambedkar was himself having meetings with NCP leader R.R. Patil.