"We have decided to chart our independent path along with some secular-minded parties," state NCP chief Sunil Tatkare told the media.

The announcement came shortly after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its 25-year-old alliance with the Shiv Sena, one of whose leaders told IANS that the BJP had a "secret understanding" with the NCP.

The NCP-Congress divorce came after weeks of bickering over seat-sharing for the Oct 15 assembly elections.

NCP leader Praful Patel expressed regret over the Congress' failure to finalize a seat sharing arrangement with the NCP and other secular parties even two days before the deadline for nominations Sep 27.

"We kept hearing from the media and unofficial channels about the number of seats the Congress was willing to offer us," he said.

"Officially, there was only one occasion when they offered us 124 seats, which we rejected as we demanded 144 seats."

The former central minister flayed the Congress and pointed out that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan left Mumbai to visit his hometown Karad at a critical juncture and remained incommunicado.

"On Wednesday night the Congress unilaterally announced its first list of 118 candidates," Patel said.

"Some of the seats for which it put up candidates had been under discussion with us."

On Saturday, the NCP served a 24-hour ultimatum to the Congress to finalize the number of seats each party will contest but there was no response.

It waited another five days before finally parting ways Thursday.

Both Patel and Tatkare expressed the hope that "a secular government" would be voted back to power in Maharashtra despite the changed circumstances.

With this, both the Congress and the NCP will now contest all the 288 assembly seats separately Oct 15.

The two parties have shared power for 15 years in Maharashtra (1999-2014) and for 10 years in New Delhi (2004-14).

The NCP has also decided to quit the Congress-led government in the state, reducing the Congress government to a minority in the legislature.

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