Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has expectedly moved the Election Commission, appealing it to recognise his faction as the real Shiv Sena. The faction led by his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray has expectedly sought a stay from the Supreme Court on the commission’s proceedings. The Thackeray faction claims that the EC cannot determine which faction the real Shiv Sena is until a decision on disqualification of rebel MLAs is made.
“If the ECI is allowed to proceed with the proceedings initiated by it on 22.07.2022, it would not only precipitate issues of great Constitutional import pending before this Court, it would also cause irreparable injury to the Applicant as any proceedings before the ECI relying upon the Petition of persons whose status as legislators is itself in question before this Court will not be just and proper," the plea said.
It further says that the Eknath faction has been indulging in several illegal activities contrary to the Constitution of the Shiv Sena.
“Further such proceedings would also be in teeth of settled law that an inquiry into a matter which is sub-judice before the Court amounts to interference with the judicial proceedings and thus, amounts to contempt of the court as has been held in a number of decisions of this Hon’ble Court and various High Courts," the plea says.
Thackeray's petition followed Shiv Sena's Arjun Khotkar's act of joining the Shinde camp today.
Meanwhile, Thackeray has said, unlike previous rebellions in the party, the revolt this time was aimed at “finishing off" the Shiv Sena. Thackeray claimed while addressing the Shiv Sena workers yesterday after inaugurating a ward-level party office in south Mumbai that the Shiv Sena did Hindutva politics as a matter of ideological conviction whereas the BJP used Hindutva for its political interests.
Last month, Sena MLA Eknath Shinde and 39 other legislators revolted against the party leadership, leading to the collapse of the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Shinde was on 30 June sworn in as the chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis as the deputy chief minister. “Unlike the earlier rebellions, this coup is to finish off the Shiv Sena forever. They have hired professional agencies to counter us. This is a battle between money and loyalty," Thackeray said.
Thackeray, who will turn 62 on 27 July, said this time he does not want bouquets on his birthday, but affidavits from the Sena workers that they trust the party and more and more registrations of people as party members.
How did the crisis begin?
The Maharashtra political crisis began on 21 June 2022 when Eknath Shinde, a senior Shiv Sena leader, along with several other MLAs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, moved to Surat in BJP-governed Gujarat, throwing the coalition into a crisis. The group later moved to Guwahati in BJP-governed Assam.
On 29 June, then-Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray resigned from the post and ceased to be an MLC member too ahead of the no-confidence motion on 29 June. The resignation of Thackeray saw the cancellation of the floor test, with Shinde claiming a stake in the government as the chief minister and Devendra Fadnavis as the deputy chief minister on 30 June.
Shinde since claimed that he has the majority of Shiv Sena MLAs and that his faction was the real Shiv Sena. He claims to have the support of 40 out of 55 MLAs and 12 of 18 Lok Sabha MPs. This claim was denied by the Thackeray side that claimed their side in the majority.
On 19 July, 12 of the 18 Shiv Sena members in the Lok Sabha expressed "no confidence" in floor leader Vinayak Raut and declared Rahul Shewale as their floor leader. Lok Sabha Speaker recognised Shewale as the leader the same day.
To ensure that neither faction is deprived of information, the EC ordered an exchange of documents submitted by the two groups in the past two days. This is the initial step and checking the papers will follow much later.
What has the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena demanded?
The Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena had written to the Election Commission last week, seeking allocation of the party’s bow-and-arrow election symbol to it on the basis of the recognition granted to them in the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra assembly.
Has the EC accepted the contention of the Shinde faction?
The commission has accepted the application but has agreed to the demand of neither side.
What are the documents the EC wants to see to arrive at a decision? What is the rule?
The commission has asked the two sides to submit documents, including letters of support from the legislative and organisation wings of the party and the written statements of the rival factions, by 8 August.