Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray – battling Eknath Shinde for the control of the party formed by his father -- has sacked several key leaders for anti-party activities. Mr Shinde, who succeeded Mr Thackeray to the post of the Chief Minister after bringing down his government -- has been quick to react, picking up the leaders discarded by the Thackeray camp. The rebel camp claims to be the real Shiv Sena while the Uddhav Thackeray-led group claims the rebels are a breakaway faction of the party.
The pruning comes ahead of a crucial Supreme Court hearing on the huge political storm in Maharashtra following the rebellion by Mr Shinde, which led to the installation of the Shinde-BJP government.
On Wednesday, the top court will hear a bunch of petitions from both sides regarding the disqualification of MLAs and the legality of whips and appointments within the party.
As the tussle between the Sena factions intensified ahead of the hearing, the Team Thackeray sacked former minister Vijay Shivtare, MLA Santosh Bangar, who was sacked as district chief of Hingoli, Naresh Mhaske as zilla pramukh (district chief) for Thane. Barring the first, both leaders have been reinstated by the Shinde camp.
Mr Thackeray has also appointed more than 100 new office bearers in Thane, Palghar, Amravati and Yavatmal districts. The new office-bearers are second rung leaders elevated to the vacant posts left by rebels.
Of the 55 MLAs belonging to the party, 53 are on the disqualification list of one side or the other. Mr Thackeray has claimed that 16 MLAs of the Shinde faction, including Mr Shinde, should be disqualified.
Mr Shinde's faction held its own national executive today -- weeks after Team Thackeray held its national executive.
On the June 25 national executive meet, Team Thackeray had passed six important resolutions, reaffirming Uddhav Thackeray as the Sena chief and authorising him to take all decisions of the party.
Mr Shinde is slated to visit Delhi for a second round of talks over the cabinet formation in Maharashtra.
Mr Shinde and his deputy, the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, took oath on June 30. But the cabinet is yet to be formed amid concerns over the fate of the rebel MLAs given the pending cases in the Supreme Court.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut held a meeting with party MPs at his home in New Delhi as the monsoon session of Parliament started today.
Responding to Mr Shinde's visit, he said, "Our High Command is in Mumbai, not Delhi." Shiv Sena Chief Ministers don't come to Delhi to take orders," he then added, in a dig at Mr Shinde.