Four MLAs of Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who had gone incommunicado since Saturday after his nephew Ajit Pawar took oath as Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister, were "rescued" and have returned to the NCP fold, the party said. 53 of the NCP's 54 MLAs are back in touch, the party claimed.
Some of the "rebel" MLAs were flown to Delhi allegedly by the BJP on Saturday by chartered flight, according to a passenger manifest. Three MLAs - Daulat Daroda, Anil Patil and Nitin Pawar - were "rescued" by the youth wing of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Two of them were flown back to Mumbai from Gurgaon.
"The MLAs were found in Gurgaon's hotel Oberoi, in Room No. 5117. Shiv Sena and NCP leaders carried out a rescue operation," said Shiv Sena parliamentarian Sanjay Raut.
"What these MLAs have revealed about the BJP's conspiracy is shocking," he added. "The daring rescue operation was carried out by our local NCP leaders Dhiraj Sharma and Sonia Duhana. They found that our legislators had been trapped in a hotel there, and got into the act. They have been brought back to Mumbai before the trust vote in the legislature," Mr Malik told news agency IANS.
"It is a conception that we ran away. But we are still in the NCP. We had not gone anywhere. We are with Sharad Pawar," Daulat Daroda and Anil Patil said.
The three leaders reached Mumbai at around 4:30 this morning. Another MLA, Narhari Zhirwal, is on his way to Mumbai from Delhi.
"We have support of 165 MLAs. 53 NCP MLAs are with us. Ajit Pawar has done a mistake, he should resign," Mr Malik said.
Daulat Daroda - against whom a missing person's complaint was filed after the chaotic events of Saturday, surfaced in a video on Sunday and offered his support to party chief Sharad Pawar. "I'm safe. I've come after winning election on the clock symbol (NCP), so there's no question of changing the party. Whatever decision Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar take, I'm with that. Don't believe in any rumours," he said in the video.
With one eye on a likely floor test, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress all rushed to guard their MLAs by sequestering them luxury hotels in Mumbai. NCP MLAs, who were taken Renaissance Hotel on Saturday, were moved to the Grand Hyatt hotel in Santacruz East.NCP sources said not all of them have been kept at one hotel. Some of the NCP leaders have been taken to Sofitel and a third hotel. While the Congress has moved its MLAs to JW Marriott, the Sena MLAs were moved from Lalit Hotel to Lemon Tree this afternoon.
In dramatic scenes on Saturday, a group of NCP MLAs from Sharad Pawar's camp went to the Mumbai airport to bring the rebels back but returned without them. Later, reports said Shiv Sena MLAs brought back one more NCP member to the YB Chavan centre, the headquarters of the NCP.
The NCP won 54 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, finishing third after the BJP (105) and Shiv Sena (56).
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, asked the centre to produce two letters - one from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claiming majority and another from the Governor inviting him to form the government - by today. NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal this morning went to Ajit Pawar's home to hold talks with him amid the ongoing political tussle.
After overnight meetings and a pre-dawn government order on Saturday, the BJP pulled off a coup as Mr Fadnavis took oath as Chief Minister with a deputy, Ajit Pawar, whose NCP had just hours before sealed a Shiv Sena-led alliance along with the Congress. Ajit Pawar's uncle Sharad Pawar said his party is still with the Shiv Sena and its chief Uddhav Thackeray.