Following the impressive show of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, political circles are abuzz with rumours of some MLAs from the ruling camp, especially from the chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar-led NCP, returning to the factions led by their original leaders.

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According to the buzz, three Shiv Sena MLAs, including two from Mumbai and one from the Marathwada region, recently held a meeting with a close aide of Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray. The trio is tapping the possibility of returning to the Thackeray faction following the dismal show of the ruling coalition in their assembly segments. Shiv Sena (UBT) insiders say Thackeray has not given a green signal yet, and the MLAs have been asked to wait. Shiv Sena (UBT) is expecting a few more MLAs to get in touch with them, but Thackeray is not keen on allowing most of the rebel MLAs to return to his faction. Only a few MLAs who have not publicly criticised him and where he does not have a strong candidate would be considered, say party insiders. Thackeray has given the responsibility of considering such cases to the same trusted aide whom the three Sena MLAs met. According to sources from different parties, a few MLAs from NCP too are keen to return to the Pawar faction. They are mostly from the Nashik to Kolhapur belt, where cooperative politics and Pawar’s influence are crucial. Senior Pawar won five seats in this belt in the Lok Sabha polls, while Ajit Pawar failed to make a mark. This has led to unease among his MLAs from the belt. One of his MLAs, Narhari Zirwal, who is also deputy speaker of the state assembly, is openly hobnobbing with Pawar faction leaders.

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On the other hand, ruling Mahayuti leaders are insisting that some MVA leaders will migrate to the ruling alliance in the coming days. With assembly elections scheduled to be held in September-October, migration or reverse-migration could pick pace as MLAs or ticket aspirants seek greener pastures.

Decks cleared for Khadse’s return to the BJP?

Former state minister Eknath Khadse along with his daughter-in-law and newly appointed union minister of state for sports and youth welfare, Raksha Khadse, met union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi on Thursday.

The meeting has revived talk about Khadse’s return to the BJP. Once a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government, Khadse had to step down following allegations of misuse of his position for his family’s benefit. Blaming Fadnavis for him getting sidelined in the party, he left the BJP in 2020 and joined the NCP, led by Sharad Pawar. But he was not happy in the NCP and ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha elections was keen to return to his original party. In the elections, he worked for the BJP and mobilised support for the party in Jalgaon district, where his Leva Patil community has strong presence. Interestingly, the BJP won only two out of eight seats in north Maharashtra. Both the seats happened to be from Jalgaon, including Raksha who was renominated by the BJP and has been made a minister now.

Given this background, Khadse’s meeting Shah is seen as an indication that the hurdles in his way to return to the BJP have been removed. It is being said that old friend Vinod Tawde played a played a role in this. The development is significant considering Khadse’s open enmity with Fadnavis and his close confidant Girish Mahajan.

Who will contest opposite Aaditya in Worli?

Posters have been put up in Worli by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers declaring party leader Sandip Deshpande as the next MLA. Since the split in Shiv Sena, both Shinde-led Sena and BJP have been planning to defeat Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray in his Worli assembly constituency. Earlier, the names of Nihar, son of Uddhav’s elder brother – the late Bindumadhav Thackeray, and Amit, son of Raj Thackeray, were doing the rounds. Now, MNS leaders have said former Shivaji Park corporator Sandip Deshpande could be the party’s candidate in Worli. The MNS is likely to join the Mahayuti in the coming assembly elections. Whoever is the candidate, the contest in Worli is likely to be an interesting one to watch.

No more heavy industries portfolio for ministers from Maharashtra

The formation of the third government by prime minister Narendra Modi has a significant change for Maharashtra. For years, the heavy industries ministry was often given to ministers elected from the state. Since 1999, successive NDA and UPA governments had nine heavy industries ministers from Maharashtra: Manohar Joshi (1999-2002), Suresh Prabhu (2002), Balasaheb Vikhe Patil (2002-2003), Subodh Mohite (2003-2004), Vilasrao Deshmukh (2009-2011), Praful Patel (2011-2014), Anant Geete (2014-2019), Arvind Sawant (2019) and Prakash Javdekar (2019-2021). It was a common joke among the state’s politicians that the ministry was reserved for MPs from Maharashtra. Since 2021, the ministry has not had any representative from the state. Now, PM Modi has given it to HD Kumaraswamy.