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Ajit Pawar group real NCP, can't use anti-defection law: Speaker

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: February 15, 2024 21:18 IST
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Maharashtra assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on Thursday held that the Nationalist Congress Party faction led by deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was the real NCP, and the anti-defection provisions in the Constitution can not be used to stifle internal dissent.

IMAGE: Supporters of Ajit Pawar celebrate after the EC announced his faction to be the real Nationalist Congress Party, in Nagpur on February 7, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

While dismissing disqualification petitions filed by the factions led by Ajit Pawar and his uncle Sharad Pawar against each other's legislators, the Speaker noted that the Ajit group had 'overwhelming legislative majority' of 41 out of 53 party MLAs when it decided to join the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra in July 2023.

The Ajit Pawar group was, thus, the 'real political party' when the factions emerged, Narwekar said.


The ruling, which followed the Election Commission's decision last week holding the Ajit-led faction as the real NCP, was criticised by the Sharad Pawar group as 'copy-paste' of Narwekar's earlier decision on disqualification petitions filed by rival Shiv Sena factions.

'An invisible power' was trying to finish off two key Maharashtra-based parties, NCP MP and Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule alleged.

"All the petitions seeking disqualification of MLAs are rejected," Narwekar said, reading out the ruling at the legislature complex in Mumbai earlier in the evening.

Questioning then party supremo Sharad Pawar's decisions or defying his wishes did not amount to defection but it was only internal dissent, Narwekar said, adding that the tenth schedule of the Constitution, which provides for disqualification of a legislator in case of defection, was misused in this case.

A party leadership can not use the tenth schedule to stifle dissent of large number of members by threatening to disqualify them, he said.

The events that unfolded in the NCP in July 2023 were clearly in the nature of intraparty dissent, and the decisions of the Ajit Pawar faction constituted the 'will of the NCP political party', the Speaker said.

"A reasoned and justifiable order has been delivered today. This verdict is tenable, sustainable and justified. It has been given on the basis of the sound principles established in accordance with the guidelines given by the apex court and disqualification rules," Narwekar said.

Reacting to the criticism by the Sharad Pawar-led NCP group and Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, Narwekar said those who don't know about the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with anti-defection provisions, can make such a statement.

"They can't talk on merit. They should comment on the difference between dissent and defection, inter-party dispute and voluntary giving up of party membership," Narwekar said.

The Speaker also sarcastically quipped that lawmaker Jitendra Awhad of the Sharad Pawar-led party, as well as Shiv Sena-UBT leaders Sanjay Raut and Aaditya Thackeray, were 'constitutional experts'.

"What can you expect from Narwekar? His decision is laughable and copy-paste of what he has done in the case of Shiv Sena where the factions led by chief minister Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray had filed disqualification petitions. An invisible power is actively trying to finish off Shiv Sena and NCP, two important state-based parties," MP Supriya Sule of the NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar (as the party headed by the senior Pawar is now officially called), said in her reaction.

"We do not have to be so naive (to expect a different result). The entire country is being run by bypassing rules, laws and constitutional norms," Sule, the daughter of the NCP founder, said while speaking to reporters.

Notably, deciding on disqualification petitions filed by the Shiv Sena factions last month, Narwekar had given a ruling on similar lines, holding Chief Minister Shinde's group to be the real Sena but refusing to disqualify any MLA from both the sides.

On Narwekar's observation that the anti-defection provisions in the Constitution's tenth schedule should not be used to suppress internal dissent, Sule said, "The invisible power dictates, that is how the Speaker's office functions and goes with a copy-paste decision."

She also referred to Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy's purported letter to BJP president J P Nadda, claiming that it shows 'which party conducts internal elections and which one indulges in suppressing dissent'.

Sunil Tatkare, Maharashtra president of the NCP, expressed happiness over the ruling, saying that the decision taken under Ajit Pawar's leadership last year (to join the Shiv Sena-BJP government) was upheld by the Speaker.

Shiv Sena-UBT leader Aaditya Thackeray -- an ally of the Sharad Pawar-led party -- criticised the Speaker's decision.

"Those who formed the NCP have nothing to do with it now. Those who ran away with the party are the new heads. The same decision was made in the Shiv Sena case. The Speaker was supposed to function as a tribunal, but the decision was not unexpected," the former state minister said.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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