Shiv Sena rebel MLA Eknath Shinde and the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis met in Gujarat's Vadodara last night to discuss possible government formation in Maharashtra, sources have said.
Home Minister Amit Shah was also in Vadodara last night, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Mr Shinde came to Vadodara on a special flight from Assam's Guwahati last night, sources said.
After talks with Mr Fadnavis, who was the Maharashtra Chief Minister until the Sena's Uddhav Thackeray took over in 2019, Mr Shinde returned to the main city in BJP-ruled Assam where nearly 40 rebel Sena MLAs are holed up in a five-star hotel.
Among them, 16 MLAs including Mr Shinde - who Team Thackeray has pointed out as the ringleader of the rebellion - face disqualification notice from the Maharashtra Deputy Speaker, who asked them to respond by Monday evening and be present in Mumbai.
Mr Shinde and the rebels want to ally with their former partner, BJP, again and claim they have the numbers to form government. The rebels have already announced a new faction called "Shiv Sena Balasaheb", to mean the ideal Shiv Sena as envisaged by Bal Thackeray, the party's founder and father of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
But the Maha Vikas Aghadi, or MVA, alliance of the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress have told the rebels to return for a floor test.
The Sena's play appears to be to go for disqualifying the 16 rebels and discouraging the rest from facing elections, hence forcing them to return from Assam, where the BJP's north-east election strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma is the Chief Minister and whose close aides have been taking care of logistics in the hotel where the MLAs are staying.
If Mr Shinde's faction wants to take over the Sena from Mr Thackeray, it will need to approach the Election Commission and wrest control of the party symbol. Team Thackeray has said the party's constitution won't allow this and they still have the support of grassroots leaders and the cadre.