Devendra Fadnavis resigned as Maharashtra chief minister on Tuesday ahead of the floor test shortly after rebel Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar did a U-turn and quit as the Bharatiya Janata Party leader's deputy, in another dramatic twist to the month-long political drama that will see Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray head the new government.
Admitting he does not have the majority hours after the Supreme Court ordered the floor test for Wednesday, Fadnavis was back in Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari just four days after he was sworn in at a hush-hush ceremony last Saturday.
His return for a second term followed stunning midnight developments where Ajit Pawar revolted and propped up the BJP government.
Hours after Fadnavis quit, a post-poll alliance of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) and the Congress, picked Uddhav Thackeray, 59, as its nominee for the chief minister's post.
The decision was taken at a joint meeting of the three parties at a suburban hotel in Mumbai.
While state NCP chief Jayant Patil proposed Thackeray's name as 'the (next) chief minister', the State Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat seconded the proposal.
The meeting was attended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, senior party leader Praful Patel, Congress leader Ashok Chavan, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana's Raju Shetti, Samajwadi Party's Abu Azmi, MLAs of all these parties and others.
The three parties named their alliance as 'Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi'.
The BJP with 105 MLAs is the single largest party while the Sena's 56 MLAs along with the NCP and Congress' 54 and 44 legislators, respectively, would take the combine's tally to 154. The majority mark in a House of 288 is 145.
Uddhav, who had emerged as a consensus candidate on Friday night and was set to be the chief minister before the BJP turned the tables on its former ally, will be the first from the Thackeray family to assume a government post.
His father late Bal Thackeray wielded the 'remote control' over the first Sena-BJP combine government during 1995-99 but never assumed a position in the government.
Uddhav Thackeray recently recalled the 'promise' he had made to his late father to install a 'Shiv Sainik' (party worker) as chief minister of Maharashtra.
The BJP's efforts to cobble a majority hoping that Ajit Pawar will be able to enlist the support of a a large section of the MLAs of the NCP came a cropper after almost all the 54 legislators stood by his uncle and party supremo Sharad Pawar, the 78-year-old Maratha strongman.
Sharad Pawar, who spoke to Ajit over phone in the morning asking him to revisit his decision, has been credited for the U-turn by his nephew and was being described as the 'man of the match'. Ajit Pawar cited 'personal reasons' for his decision to quit.
Fadnavis handed over his resignation to the Governor after he announced his decision at a crowded news conference in Mumbai.
Ajit Pawar had supported the BJP as leader of the 54-member NCP legislature party and with his resignation earlier in the day, the government has lost majority, said Fadnavis, hours after the Supreme Court ordered the floor test for the BJP leader to prove his majority.
The court said there is a 'possibility of horse trading' in case of a delay in floor test. The Governor had on Saturday given 14 days time to Fadnavis to prove his majority, the apex court was told on Monday.
"We don't have majority after Ajit Pawar's resignation as deputy chief minister," Fadnavis said on a day of fast paced political and legal developments.
Fadnavis said the BJP will become the voice of the people as a responsible opposition. "We won't indulge in horse-trading," he added.
"Ajit Pawar told me he was quitting due to personal reasons."
The Maharashtra assembly poll mandate was more for the BJP than the Shiv Sena, he added.
"Shiv Sena lied to us and started talking to other parties after poll results. Shiv Sena claims to be a party that believes in Hindutva, but today, their Hindutva is bowing to Sonia Gandhi. They are swearing by Sonia Gandhi," he added.
In its order, the apex court also directed that the voting in the Assembly will not be on the basis of secret ballot and the entire proceedings will have to be telecast live.
"In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so," said a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
The resignation of Fadnavis came a day after the Sena-led alliance paraded 162 MLAs in an unprecedented show of strength at a luxury hotel in Mumbai on Monday night indicating that the numbers were stacked heavily against the BJP.
The alliance, which is expected to have a Common Minimum Programme (CMP), was stitched after hectic parleys involving Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Once being the only second chief minister in Maharashtra to complete the full five-year term, Fadnavis now holds the dubious distinction of being the CM with the shortest tenure of four days in the last 59 years.
The NCP had removed Ajit Pawar as its legislature party leader the same day after he took oath as the deputy chief minister.
Governor Koshyari called a special session of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday for the 288 newly-elected members to take oath.
The oath will be administered by newly-appointed pro tem speaker Kalidas Kolambkar. The session will begin at 8 am.
NCP leader Nawab Malik said the collapse of the Fadnavis government has punctured the BJP's 'arrogance' while Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was based on 'defections' and fell like a 'house of cards'.
The BJP for its part said parties 'rejected by people' in the assembly polls have joined hands to 'steal' popular mandate.
The BJP also rejected the opposition's criticism over its decision to form government despite lacking numbers, with its spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao saying it had done so in "good faith" after being assured of the NCP's support by its leader Ajit Pawar.
"The opportunistic alliance of defeated parties will not enjoy the public support and invite public wrath," he said.
The collapse of the nascent government capped the month-long uncertainty in Maharashtra politics, which witnessed many twists and turns since the results of the assembly elections were declared on October 24.
With no party having the requisite numbers, President's Rule was imposed on November 12, which was lifted on November 23 paving the return of Fadnavis as chief minister.
The Shiv Sena walked away from the 'Mahayuti' (the Sena-BJP alliance) on the issue of sharing the chief minister's post.