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Maha speaker crowns Shinde as boss of real Shiv Sena as Uddhav fumes

Source: PTI
Last updated on: January 10, 2024 22:02 IST
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In a big political win for Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on Wednesday held that the Shiv Sena faction led by him was the "real political party" when rival groups emerged in June 2022, and did not disqualify any MLA from the two camps, a verdict that adds another chapter in the Sena legacy war.

IMAGE: Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde in happier times.

In his 105-minute-long reading of the key points of the much-awaited ruling on the cross-petitions by Shiv Sena factions seeking disqualification of each other's MLAs following a split in the party in 2022, Narwekar also rejected the Uddhav Thackeray faction's petition to disqualify 16 MLAs of the ruling group, including Shinde.

The ruling cemented Shinde place in the top job, 18 months after his rebellion, and added to his political heft in the ruling coalition which also consists of the BJP and the NCP (Ajit Pawar group) ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in summer and assembly elections in Maharashtra, which are due in the second half of 2024.

As Narwekar finished reading the order, celebrations broke out among Chief Minister Shinde's supporters, who burst firecrackers, while Sena (UBT) leaders Uddhav Thackeray, Sanjay Raut and Aaditya Thackeray said their party will approach Supreme Court against the speaker's order.

Narwekar said no party leadership can use provisions of 10th schedule of Constitution (anti-defection law) for dissent or indiscipline within a party.


In his order on disqualification petitions filed by Shinde-led Sena and the rival faction of Thackeray against each other's MLAs, Narwekar said Sunil Prabhu of the Sena (UBT) ceased to be the whip from June 21, 2022, (when the party split) and legislator Bharat Gogawale of the Shinde group became the authorised whip.

”All the petitions seeking disqualification of MLAs are rejected. No MLA is being disqualified,” Narwekar said.

The speaker also held that the Shiv Sena pramukh (chief) did not have the power to remove any leader from the party. He also did not accept the argument that the will of the party chief and the will of the party were synonymous.

The 1999 party constitution submitted to the Election Commission was the valid constitution for deciding the issues, and the Thackeray group's contention that the amended constitution of 2018 should be relied on was not acceptable, he added.

The 1999 constitution made the Rashtriya Karyakarini (national executive) the supreme body, he said.

Narwekar said he could not accept petitioner's (Uddhav faction) contention that the 2018 party constitution should be relied upon. The Shiv Sena constitution of 1999, provided by the Election Commission is the real constitution.

The Shinde group had an overwhelming majority of 37 out of the total 54 Sena MLAs when the rival factions emerged in June 2022, the speaker noted.

The verdict came as a huge setback for Thackeray and the faction led by him. The Shiv Sena (UBT) chief reacted angrily to the verdict and termed it as a "murder of democracy," and his party will move the Supreme Court against it.

Speaking at a press conference shortly after the ruling, Thackeray said the apex court had given clear guidelines, but those were ignored by the speaker.

The original case was about disqualification under the anti-defection law, but not one lawmaker from either side was disqualified, the former CM said.

"The foundation on which the order stands is wrong. This is a murder of democracy and an insult to the Supreme Court," he said, adding that neither the apex court nor the people will accept this decision.

The court had accepted the authority of the whip of the Thackeray faction (Sunil Prabhu) and its group leader (Ajay Chowdhary), Thackeray said.

Narwekar, in his ruling, said Prabhu ceased to be the authorised whip when the split in the party became apparent on June 21, 2022.

"The Shiv Sena will never be finished and the people of Maharashtra will not accept the Sena of these traitors," Thackeray, who stepped down as chief minister after Shinde's rebellion in June 2022, asserted.

Sena (UBT) MP Raut lashed out at the BJP, an ally of Shinde.

”This is the BJP's conspiracy and this was their dream that one day they would finish Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sena. But Shiv Sena won't finish with this one decision,” Raut said.

Allies of the Shiv Sena (UBT) rallied behind the beleaguered party.

Narwekar's verdict was "not at all surprising", but it should be challenged in the Supreme Court by the rival group led by Thackeray, NCP founder Sharad Pawar said in Pune.

It was the collective opinion of all (Maha Vikas Aghadi constituents) that the verdict would not be pro-Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Pawar said.

"The people in the government, including Chief Minister Shinde, had on several instances spoken on what sort of decision would be coming and it shows they had an inkling about the verdict (going in their favour) and that assurance used to get reflected in their statements," the former Union minister said.

Congress leader Ashok Chavan said Maharashtra's sympathy lay with Thackeray.

"Considering the present political situation, the Speaker's decision was not unexpected. The sympathy of the country as well as the state is with Uddhav Thackeray," Chavan told reporters in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar.

"This is not Uddhav Thackeray's fight alone but this is a fight to safeguard democracy. He should seek justice and go to the Supreme Court. Democracy will win for sure," the Congress leader said.

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