Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar on Tuesday dismissed speculations about him and a group of MLAs defecting to ally with the the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra, ANI reported.

Amid reports that he had called a meeting of a group of MLAs who were with him in rebelling against the Nationalist Congress Party, Ajit Pawar told reporters: “I am with the NCP and will remain with the NCP.”

The speculations intensified over the weekend as The New Indian Express reported that Ajit Pawar, the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, had garnered the support of 35 to 40 of the 53 MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party and was looking to take over from Eknath Shinde as the chief minister of Maharashtra.

Shinde could be forced to quit as the chief minister if the Supreme Court decides that he and the group of Shiv Sena MLAs who rebelled against the party in June to form the government with the BJP’s support had violated the anti-defection law.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had also denied there were chances of a split in the outfit, PTI reported.

“There is no importance of all these discussions...The reports have no meaning,” he told reporters. “I can say about NCP that all our colleagues are of one thinking of how to make the party stronger, and there is no other thought in anybody’s mind.”

Political dramas in Maharashtra

Since the BJP and Shiv Sena fell out after the 2019 Assembly election results, Maharashtra has seen two major political upheavals being played out. The BJP and the Shiv Sena had a pre-poll alliance ahead of the 2019 state elections and they won enough seats to form a government. But they broke off the alliance over the choice of chief minister after the polls.

Amid this crisis, the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis took oath on November 23, 2019, in an early morning coup as he claimed to have support from Ajit Pawar and a group of NCP MLAs. Pawar had taken oath as the deputy chief minister. However, the government lasted less than 80 hours as both Fadnavis and Pawar quit ahead of a trust vote in the House.

Days later, Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra as the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party formed an alliance in the state. However, in June the Thackeray government collapsed as Shinde and 39 MLAs of the Shiv Sena quit the party and allied with the BJP.

Shinde took oath as the chief minister, while the BJP’s Fadnavis became his deputy.

On February 17, the Election Commission recognised the group headed by Shinde as the real Shiv Sena and allocated it the bow and arrow symbol. The faction led by Thackeray is currently known as the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).