Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar on Wednesday, while reading the order on the cross-petitions by two Shiv Sena factions, said the MLAs cannot be disqualified for going “incommunicado” as alleged by the UBT faction, adding that “Shinde faction was the real Shiv Sena political party when rival factions emerged on 21st June 2022.”
Narvekar further said Uddhav Thackeray had no power to remove Eknath Shinde from the party. “Shiv Sena ‘pramukh’ does not have the power to remove any leader from the party,” he said.
Narvekar also noted that the petitioner’s ( Uddhav faction) contention that the 2018 party constitution should be relied upon cannot be accepted.
“As is evident from the submissions of the parties (the two warring Shiv Sena factions), there is no consensus on the constitution submitted to the Election Commission of India with the consent of both factions. Likewise, the parties have different points of view on the leadership structure, which has been to be taken into consideration. The only aspect which is undisputed is the majority in the legislature party, ” he said.
“In view of the evidence and records before me, prima facie indicates that no elections were held in the year 2013, as well as in the year 2018. However, I as the speaker exercising jurisdiction under the 10th schedule have limited jurisdiction and cannot go beyond the record of the ECI as available on the website and hence I have not considered this aspect while determining the relevant leadership structure. Thus, given the above conclusions, I find that the leadership structure of Shiv Sena reflected in the letter dated 27th February 2018 available on the website of the ECI is the relevant leadership structure which has to be taken into account to determine which faction is the real political party…” Narvekar further stated.
The political fireworks erupted in Maharashtra ahead of assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar’s crucial verdict on the cross-petitions by two Shiv Sena factions seeking disqualification of each other’s MLAs following a split in the party.
Narwekar is slated to deliver his much-awaited verdict on the disqualification pleas at 4 pm today, more than 18 months after the Shiv Sena suffered a vertical split– a political development that resulted in a change of guard in the state.
The outcome will decide the future of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led government and also the regional outfit’s rival groups.
Ahead of the crucial decision, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said on Wednesday that Speaker Rahul Narwekar should give his verdict on merit.
Talking to reporters in Mumbai, Shinde said he would give a detailed reaction after the order but maintained that the Election Commission has allowed his outfit to keep the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and its ‘bow and arrow’ symbol.
Shinde said his group has 67 per cent of the Shiv Sena lawmakers in the assembly and 75 per cent in Lok Sabha.
“Some people allege match-fixing (between Shiv Sena and the speaker). There is no substance to those allegations. The speaker should give judgment on merit,” he said.
On Tuesday, the opposition Shiv Sena (UBT) upped the ante as its president Uddhav Thackeray said his party has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court objecting to a recent meeting between Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who is among the MLAs whose disqualification has been sought, and speaker Rahul Narwekar as both sides engaged in a verbal spat.
The affidavit before the SC was filed on Monday, the former CM said.
Thackeray said since the SC directed Narwekar in May last year to decide on the disqualification pleas, the speaker has met the chief minister twice.
The speaker met Shinde at `Varsha’, the chief minister’s official residence in south Mumbai, on Sunday. Thackeray noted that the two had met in October last year too.
“If the judge (Narwekar) is going to meet the accused, what should we expect from that judge,” Thackeray asked, speaking to the media at his residence `Matoshree’ in Mumbai.
Narwekar’s ruling will decide whether “democracy exists in the country or not” or whether the two (speaker and chief minister) will “murder” democracy, said the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader.
Thackeray’s ally and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) founder Sharad Pawar also said that when someone who is hearing a case meets the person against whom the case is being heard, it “leaves room for doubt”.
Hitting back, Narwekar said Thackeray should know for what purposes a speaker could meet a chief minister.
“If he still levels such allegations, then his motive is very clear. There is no rule that a speaker, while hearing disqualification pleas, cannot do any other work,” Narwekar contended.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed confidence about the Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP (Ajit Pawar group) government remaining stable going forward.
In June 2022, Shinde and several MLAs rebelled against the then-chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, leading to a split in the Shiv Sena and the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, which also comprised the NCP and the Congress.
Cross-petitions were filed by the Shinde and Thackeray factions before the speaker seeking action against each other under anti-defection laws.
The apex court in May last year directed Narwekar to adjudicate on the pleas expeditiously.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission had given the ‘Shiv Sena’ name and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to the Shinde-led faction, while the one headed by Thackeray was called the Shiv Sena (UBT) with a flaming torch as its symbol.
The Supreme Court last month extended the deadline to January 10 for Narwekar to decide on the cross-petitions filed by rival factions of the Shiv Sena seeking disqualification of each other’s MLAs.
In July last year, the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP also joined the Shinde-led government. Assembly polls in Maharashtra are due in the second half of 2024.