The Shiv Sena is facing political turmoil after Eknath Shinde, Cabinet Minister of Urban Development and Public Works in the state government, has gone out of contact and is reportedly holed up in a hotel in Surat.
The city is in a state ruled by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with Shinde reportedly being in touch with the BJP.
He has reportedly been removed as the Shiv Sena's legislative leader by the party.
Shinde tweeted a cryptic message stating that he is a true follower of Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder and ideologue of the Shiv Sena.
Further, news outlets are reporting that Shinde has 26 Members of Legislaive Assembly (MLAs), putting the existence of the Government of Maharashtra in question if these MLAs were to defect against the government. However, a report from Republic says that this number is as high as 40 MLAs.
The Shiv Sena is the senior coalition partner of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi [MVA] coalition government in Maharashtra, led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, which is an uncomfortable alliance with ideologically opposite Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP); cobbled together to keep the BJP out of power.
In a press conference in New Delhi, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar told reporters that they were with the Shiv Sena through this, but he circled around a question if the NCP would lend its support to the BJP if the government were to collapse.
Devendra Fadnavis, the current Leader of Opposition and the chief minister of the state immediately preceding Thackeray, has also left for New Delhi to meet with the BJP central leadership amid this crisis, cancelling several public programmes scheduled in Nashik.
Congress' leader and Minister for Revenue, Balasaheb Thorat, who represents the party within the party, has offered to resign as the leader of the party group.
This development follows two successive political setbacks for the MVA coalition.
In the first instance, six seats to the Rajya Sabha were up for election in Maharashtra on June 10. The MVA coalition got only three seats, instead of a projected four, after several members belonging the parties in the MVA government were rendered ineligible to vote. The BJP managed to win half the seats despite being in the opposition in what is considered to be a political victory.
Second, the BJP was able to secure five of the ten seats up for grabs yesterday in the elections to Maharashtra's Legislative Council, where all their fielded candidates won. The BJP's victory came at the expense of one candidate from the Congress, who lost due to alleged crossvoting from within the members of the ruling coalition partners. The final tally stood at: five for the BJP, two each for the Shiv Sena and NCP and one for the Congress (out of two candidates who had contested).
What do the numbers look like in the assembly?
The Maharashtra Assembly has 288 seats, with a majority mark at 145 seats.
The Shiv Sena has 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44, which together amounts to 154 seats: a margin of nine seats above the majority mark.
Further, several parties are sympathetic to the MVA government in terms of legislative support, such as the Samajwadi Party (two seats), the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (three seats) and the Prahar Janshakti Party (two seats). The All India Majlis-e-Ittahedul Muslemeen of Assaduddin Owaisi has another two seats, but they do not always support the government, but did vote the government during the Rajya Sabha polls.
The BJP is the single largest party with 105 seats.
Bad blood exists between the Shiv Sena and the BJP as they contested the assembly elections of 2019 together, but the former broke the alliance at the union and the state level on allegations that the BJP reneged over an agreement for rotational chief minister between the two parties.
The BJP maintains that no such promise was made and blame the Shiv Sena for backstabbing them and betraying the mandate granted to them by allying with the Congress and NCP.