In an unexpected turn of events, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has resigned just ahead of the end of the current assembly’s tenure at midnight on Friday. Fadnavis and state leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had expressed confidence that they would form the next government. This suggested that the party was about to reach an agreement with its nearly-three-decade old ally, the Shiv Sena, over who would get to be chief minister.

The Shiv Sena has been demanding a rotational system, whereby the two parties take turns at the top for half a term each, claiming that this was part of their pre-poll “fifty-fifty" deal. But the BJP, which emerged as the largest party in the recent state elections, denies any such pact and has been unwilling to share the chief minister’s post.

Now that Fadnavis has resigned, the state is in for a renewed phase of political uncertainty. The odds of a non-BJP government taking office appear slim. The Sena had tried to forge a new alliance with parties on the other side of the ideological divide. But Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party has made it clear that it doesn’t think a post-poll coalition with the Sena has a popular mandate to rule Maharashtra. Such an alliance would also need Congress support, and this party seems even more wary of joining hands with a party as rightist as the Sena. It’s possible that Fadnavis has quit only as a constitutional necessity, since the assembly term is about to end, and may yet stake a claim to form the next government. If so, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari would have to decide whether to swear Fadnavis in and let him prove his majority support on the floor of the house, or recommend President’s rule. Either way, what the state needs least is an administration formed by horse trading.

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