Visuals today showed 41 MLAs posing with Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde at a hotel in Guwahati, a show of strength that seemed to indicate that it is game over Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The videos from Guwahati showed the MLAs gathered in a hall for a photo-shoot meant more as a preview of a test of strength that may come up in Maharashtra’s power tussle.
The MLAs, arranged in three rows, flanked Eknath Shinde, the former auto-rickshaw driver who is today the most powerful man in the Shiv Sena and appears to have checkmated a Thackeray for the first time in the party founded by Bal Thackeray.
The MLAs shouted slogans for Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde and Bal Thackeray but did not mention Uddhav Thackeray at all.
The visuals showed Eknath Shinde addressing the MLAs at one point.
The rebel group started their journey on Monday night when they took a flight from Mumbai to Surat in BJP-ruled Gujarat. They went incommunicado and refused to speak to team Thackeray for hours.
On Tuesday night, they were flown to Guwahati in Assam, another BJP-ruled state, and they have been at the Radisson Blu hotel since.
Their numbers have been swelling over the past two days and Mr Shinde seems to have enough MLAs to split the party without disqualification under the anti-defection law.
Uddhav Thackeray, who quit his official home yesterday but stopped short of resigning as Chief Minister, has gone silent again after his emotional appeal to the rebels flopped. Three more MLAs left for Guwahati after his speech.
At his meeting today, only 13 MLAs were present.