The Shiv Sena's decision to oppose the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in a voice vote in the Maharashtra assembly on Wednesday was not a dream start for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis by any means.
Even though Fadnavis proved majority in the 288-member assembly amid protests by the Opposition, the Sena's stand could spell trouble for the BJP in the days to come.
Fadnavis, who wants to model his government on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's at the Centre, will now have to lead a minority government.
With Sena staking claim to the Opposition leader's post, CM Fadnavis may not be able to follow Modi, who is sailing on a full majority in the Parliament.
In the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, the BJP has 121 MLAs - down from 122 after Mukhed MLA Govind Rathod died of a heart attack on October 26. While the Shiv Sena has 63 MLAs, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has 41 legislators. The Sharad Pawar-led NCP has offered unconditional support to the BJP.
While Sena's dissent frees Fadnavis of a troublesome coalition ally, his government may now have to be dependent on the whims and fancies of NCP chief Pawar, even as it combats an Opposition led by the Sena, former BJP ally.
For starters, it translates into keeping a high-decibel corruption agenda on the back foot.
The NCP, however, reiterated after the trust vote that it wanted a stable government in the state.
"We will not destabilise the government in Maharashtra. We respect the mandate of people," NCP leader Nawab Malik told ANI, adding his party will not join the government.
Sources in the BJP admit its long-term plan has always been to occupy Sena territory in the state completely and, in case of a minority government, break legislators away from its saffron ally.
In the meanwhile, however, Fadnavis will have to walk a tightrope.
Besides not delivering on promises such as taking action in the irrigation scam, he will face hurdles to get his pet legislations like the Right to Services, Lokayukta Act and amendment to the Bombay Police Act passed unless the NCP is on board.
While getting bills and even the budget cleared in the state assembly may not be a problem given its strength of 122 legislators, the numbers go against the BJP in the legislative council (only 11 MLCs as opposed to NCP's 28, Congress 22 and Sena's eight).
The party will have to be at the mercy of the NCP in the council to get anything cleared for at least the next two years, till it can stake claim to many more MLC posts as and when the tenure of existing legislators expires.
By losing the support of 63 Sena legislators, the Fadnavis-led government will also open itself up to scrutiny and attack by a resurgent Opposition that will include three parties (considering the NCP has also taken a stance of being in the Opposition).
This means an attack on several fronts and may hinder delivering on promises made on toll-free roads, drip irrigation subsidies for farmers, welfare schemes for sugarcane farmers and pension schemes for women.
"With the state's financial health in a precarious position, delivering on the development agenda is going to be difficult. If Fadnavis has to prove himself, he will have to take some tough calls and that is not easy without a full majority,'' said a senior BJP leader.
Congress' newly elected deputy leader, Vijay Wadettiwar, said, "There have been so many empty promises by BJP that our line of attack will be easy. We have studied all of Modi's speeches made during the Assembly campaign and we will start by picking holes in them.''
Watch:Fadnavis wins trust vote, Sena leaders back Uddhav's decision to sit in Oppn