Union minister Narayan Rane on Friday predicted that the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government will collapse by early 2022 and the Bharatiya Janata Party will return to power in the state, reported ANI.

“Change will be seen in Maharashtra very soon,” Rane told reporters during his two-day tour of Rajasthan. “The change will be seen by March. To form a government or break a government, some things have to be kept secret.”

The minister of micro, small and medium enterprises refused to comment on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray since he is unwell. Thackeray underwent a spine surgery two weeks ago in Mumbai.

“The chief minister is unwell and hospitalised,” said Rane. “At such a time, I would not like to take his name. There is clear instruction from our state party president Chandrakant Patil not to speak about the Maharashtra chief minister.”

The Union minister claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government – a coalition of Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena – has failed to live up to the expectations of residents.

“In such a scenario, the return of BJP is evident,” he added. “Whether the government will fall or some parties will break away from the coalition is part of details which cannot be discussed.”

Leaders of the three ruling parties dismissed Rane’s prediction.

Congress’ state president Nana Patole said such predictions have been doing the rounds for last two years. “There is no substance in their prediction,” he added. “The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is strong and will complete its full five-year tenure.”

Nationalist Congress Party minister and spokesperson Nawab Malik said a change of guard in Maharashtra was the wishful thinking of a bunch of BJP leaders. “In reality, there is no way the BJP can replace the Maha Vikas Aghadi in the near future,” he added.

State Transport Minister and Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab said Rane’s comments were baseless. “I do not take these predictions seriously,” he said. “Rane is speaking without any substance.”

Rane had courted controversy in August when he was arrested for his comment that he would like to slap Uddhav Thackeray for his “ignorance of the year India won Independence”. It was the first time in 20 years that a Union minister had been arrested. Rane was later released on bail.