Stating that he was not interested in playing the numbers game, Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday resigned as Maharashtra chief minister, minutes after Supreme Court refused to stay Governor B S Koshyari's direction to his government to take a floor test in the assembly.
The resignation of Thackeray, 62, capped a week-long drama of resort politics, where rebel Shiv Sena MLAs led by minister Eknath Shinde camped in luxury hotels and hopped on chartered jets from Mumbai to Surat and Guwahati, before landing in the cool climes of Goa on Wednesday night.
In a televised address shortly after 9.30 pm, Thackeray said he was hurt by the rebellion in his party and announced that he has also decided to quit as a member of the state Legislative Council.
Accompanied by sons Aaditya and Tejas, he drove to Raj Bhavan and handed over his resignation letter as CM to Koshyari around midnight.
The Governor accepted his resignation, an official said.
Thackeray's sudden announcement, which came on a day Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said he will fight till the end, paves way for the return of a Bharatiya Janata Party-led dispensation in the state, two-and-a-half-years after the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress government came to power.
“What I did during my tenure was for Marathi people and Hindutva. There were riots across the country, but Maharashtra was an exception. I would also like to thank my Muslim brethren," Thackeray said in his address to the state.
In a veiled attack on Koshyari, he thanked the Governor for his “commitment to securing democracy” and calling a floor test within 24 hours of receiving a letter from some MLAs.
"People who were bestowed with positions by the Shiv Sena are now claiming to be angry with the party. Those who have been given so much are angry today. The common Sainiks who have received nothing stand solidly behind the party," he said.
Thackeray also thanked NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi for their support. "I would like to say that neither the NCP nor the Congress objected to the renaming of Aurangabad," he said.
BJP leaders, waiting in the wings for staging a comeback to power in the state, celebrated Thackeray's announcement that he was stepping down as CM.
State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil was seen treating party colleague Devendra Fadnavis, slated to return as CM, with sweets.
A meeting of the BJP legislature party will be held soon, party sources said.
Earlier in the day, the political tussle in Maharashtra entered a decisive phase when Koshyari ordered the state government to take a floor test in the Assembly on Thursday, a day after a BJP delegation met him and demanded a floor test claiming that the Sena-led government was in minority.
Thackeray-led Shiv Sena's chief whip Sunil Prabhu then moved the Supreme Court against Governor Koshyari's direction.
During the hearing in the apex court in the evening, Shinde's lawyers said the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government has lost its majority as most of Sena MLAs were with him, Thackeray told his cabinet colleagues that he was betrayed by his own people.
Shinde's lawyers told the Supreme Court that the Thackeray-led faction of the Sena is in a “hopeless minority” within the party and a floor test in the Assembly is the best way to stop horse-trading.
The bench observed that the floor of the House is the only way to settle these issues of democracy.
Before flying to Goa, Shinde told reporters at the airport that the members of his group were the "real Shiv Sainiks" and objected to being called Shiv Sena rebels. "We are Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sainiks. We will take forward the Hindutva ideology,” he said.
Governor Koshyari in his letter to Assembly secretary had directed that a special session of the Assembly shall be summoned on June 30 at 11 am “with the only agenda of a trust vote against the chief minister, and the proceedings shall be concluded in any case by 5 pm."
With Thackeray's resignation, there is now no need for a floor test.
Earlier on Wednesday, as the fate of the state government hung in balance, the state cabinet approved the renaming of Aurangabad city as Sambhajinagar, and that of Osmanabad city as Dharashiv.
The cabinet meeting chaired by Thackeray also approved the naming of upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after farmer leader late D B Patil. State planning agency CIDCO had earlier proposed to name the airport after Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
“This is the beginning of Shiv Sena's grand victory,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut tweeted, after Thackeray announced he will step down as CM and focus his energies on rebuilding the party.
Sena rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar attributed Thackeray's plight to the “machinations” of Raut. “Our group is meeting tomorrow. We will go by whatever Shinde decides,” he added.
The focus will now be on Raj Bhavan in the next few days. BJP leaders are expected to meet the Governor to stake claim to form the next government in the state. The swearing-in of the Fadnavis-led ministry may take places soon, an official said.
Meanwhile, police are on alert to avoid any untoward incident across the state in the backdrop of Thackeray's resignation as CM. Security at the residences and offices of rebel Sena MLAs has been increased, an official said.
Local police, SRPF and central forces have been deployed at important locations, the official said. Police anticipate that Shiv Sena supporters could come out on the streets to stage protests against the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, he said.
Following is the party position in the 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly: Shiv Sena 55, NCP 53, Congress 44, BJP 106, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi 3, Samajwadi Party 2, AIMIM 2, Prahar Janshakti Party 2, MNS 1, CPI (M) 1, PWP 1, Swambhimani Paksha 1, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha 1, Jansurajya Shakti Party 1, Krantikari Shetkari Party 1, and Independents 13.
There is a vacancy due to the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke last month.
Of the 55 Shiv Sena MLAs, 39 rebelled against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government along with 10 independents.
Two NCP members -- Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal -- have tested COVID-19 positive, while two other party legislators -- Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik -- are currently in jail.