Maharashtra minister and senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has gone incommunicado, a party leader said on Tuesday, a day after the ruling Maha Vikas Agahdi (MVA) suffered a setback in the state Legislative Council polls by losing one out of the six seats it contested.
The development could rattle the MVA, comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, as some Sena MLAs are believed to be in touch with Shinde.
However, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut asserted that the Sena is a party of loyalists and attempts by the BJP, like in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, to topple the MVA government would not succeed.
He also said Shinde was a trusted Shiv Sainik, and that the 'missing' MLAs will be back after the party is able to reach out the them.
Earlier in the day, a Sena leader said Shinde, who wields influence in some of the satellite cities of Mumbai, may be in Gujarat along with some MLAs.
The leader did not divulge the number of MLAs who could be with Shinde and their details.
"He (Shinde) was at the Shiv Sena office in the Legislative Assembly premises on Monday when Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was present there. But, no one knows about him after that. He was not present during the counting (for MLC polls)," the leader said.
According to sources, Shinde along with some Sena MLAs was camping at a hotel in Gujarat's Surat city.
Meanwhile, Raut said "BJP's Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan pattern" to topple the MVA government will not succeed.
"Once we reach out to the missing MLAs, they will be back. Shinde is a trusted Shiv Sainik. The Shiv Sena is a party of loyalists and not those who fall to the lust of power and positions," he said.
Raut said if Shinde has any misunderstanding with the chief minister, it can be cleared "I have spoken to (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar and other leaders of the MVA," Raut said.
There was normal activity outside Shinde's bungalow in neighbouring Thane city and attempts to reach out to his son failed.
The opposition BJP on Monday won all five seats it contested in the state Legislative Council elections for 10 seats, while Congress candidate and Dalit leader Chandrakant Handore lost, in another setback for the MVA after the Rajya Sabha polls earlier this month.
Two candidates each of the Shiv Sena and NCP won, while the Congress managed to bag just one seat.
Ten Council seats were up for grabs and 11 candidates were in the fray for the elections, which came days after the Rajya Sabha polls, which saw the BJP handing an embarrassing defeat to the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition.