The BJP government in Maharashtra received its stamp of constitutional legitimacy when it squeaked through the trust vote on Wednesday. The Shiv Sena, an ally for 25 years till six weeks ago, is now the main Opposition party.
It would be appropriate to say that Devendra Fadnavis' government 'managed' the vote, it did not 'win' it. Unwilling to accede to the demands of the Sena, the BJP cobbled together the numbers from the stock of Independent MLAs and the NCP to come out on the winning side. But thanks to the voice vote, the exact strength of the Treasury Benches remains unclear.
Speaker Haribhau Bagde did not allow a division of votes and thanks to this, the NCP, with 41 MLAs, did not have to reveal its hand. The BJP has 121 MLAs and with the support of the Independents, the number is now 135-140, which is short of the simple majority required in the house of 287 MLAs.
This is a unique situation: The state government does not have the numbers but has the vote of confidence of the legislature.
Mr Fadnavis heads a minority government that substantially reduces its moral authority to govern, the implications of which could rock the state in the future.
The Shiv Sena and the Congress find themselves on the same side opposing the government. They could make common cause and with their combined strength of 105 MLAs could make legislative business and governance difficult.
The Congress must oppose but what of the Sena? Hours before the trust vote, it was still willing to negotiate with the BJP. The contradiction - in power with the BJP at the Centre and in local bodies but opposing it in the legislature - has turned Uddhav Thackeray's strategy into a farce.
The BJP's reliance on the NCP is also indefensible: the party opposed the NCP in the pre-poll days, accusing it of corrupt practices, and promising to take stern action against tainted members of Sharad Pawar's party if voted to power.
Mr Pawar is known to be a reliable friend and an unreliable politician. His issue-based support could land the Fadnavis government in a spot in the coming weeks.
The nature of the understanding between the two will become clear as the government gets down to business. To bolster its numbers, the BJP could try poaching MLAs from other parties.
All this means a period of political tumult, instability and compromised governance in a state where the BJP promised golden days. It could even lead to another election.
For the time being, Mr Fadnavis must make the best of the mandate he has.