As Rebels Grow, A Circuit-Breaker Eludes Uddhav Thackeray

Ndtv | 4 days ago | 23-06-2022 | 10:52 pm

As Rebels Grow, A Circuit-Breaker Eludes Uddhav Thackeray

Uddhav Thackeray has been reduced to a minority chief in the Shiv Sena.Mumbai: When Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called a meeting of his party this afternoon - online, since he has Covid - the head count stood at a scanty 13.The sum of the missing parts was, meanwhile, growing in Assam. By 9 pm, the rebels within his party who have turned on Mr Thackeray, clocked 44. They have elected, as their leader, Eknath Shinde, who has yet to resign as a senior minister in the Maharashtra government.It is from this unlikely location - the Radisson Blu Hotel in Guwahati - that Mr Shinde, 58, has closed his grip on the Shiv Sena, a party founded by Mr Thackeray's father. The Sena has 55 MLAs; to be recognised as the bona fide party, and not a splinter group, 37 MLAs are needed. Mr Shinde has more than that - which suggests Mr Thackeray stands to lose the lead role not just in the Maharashtra government but in his party.Mr Shinde pulled out of Mumbai on Monday night in a luxury bus that drove into Surat. A dawn guesstimate put his group at about 18.  By noon, that had changed to 23. Since then, there has been a revision upwards nearly every few hours. The location has also been amended - from Surat, where Mr Thackeray's emissaries were able to meet with some of the rebels, to far-away Assam, much tougher to breach. Eknath Shinde is yet to resign as a senior minister in the Maharashtra government.Yesterday, a letter sent to the Governor from the pop-up camp in Assam had the signatures of 30 Sena MLAs. It claimed that Mr Shinde was their leader. Another four MLAs arrived by private plane last night. Two more jetted over this evening, again on a chartered flight.Among those in Guwahati are ministers and MPs. The revolt is all-in. So much so that Ravindra Fatak, one of the aides trusted by Mr Thackeray to drive to Surat for negotiations, has shimmied over to Guwahati.By noon today, it was clear that Mr Thackeray had been easily bested. Sanjay Raut, speaking on his behalf, asked the MLAs in Guwahati to "return within 24 hours", offering that Mr Thackeray was open to their demand of exiting his own government. The overture was peculiar on several counts. For one, Mr Raut casually included a threat. "These MLAs who have left... they will find it difficult to return and move around in Maharashtra." For another, the suggestion that the Sena could break up with its existing allies left said allies somewhat winded. "Did Raut give this statement only to bring back the rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena? I will discuss Sanjay Raut's remarks with the Chief Minister," said Ajit Pawar, who is Deputy Chief Minister. His uncle, Sharad Pawar, heads the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP. It is he who braided together three ideologically disparate parties - the Sena, his own NCP and the Congress, to form the Maharashtra government in 2019. "We will support Uddhav Thackeray to the end," Mr Pawar said today. Which makes Mr Raut's "can do" response to the rebels an awkward pitch.Eknath Shinde With Rebel MLAsIt is an unequivocal demand of Mr Shinde and his cohort that the Sena abort its partnership with the Congress and Mr Pawar's allies and resume its relations with the BJP. Till 2019, the Sena was the BJP's oldest partner. The split was caused over Mr Thackeray demanding that the BJP split the Chief Minister's post with his party - the five-year term, he said, was to be divided between them. Mr Thackeray said that had been agreed on before the election and the BJP was reneging on its promise.Enter Mr Pawar. Proving that his reputation as one of the country's most intuitive and effect political negotiators is well-earned, a new alliance was formed. With three parties braided together, it had the numbers needed to form the government.Mr Shinde's contention is this switching of sides has shrunk the Sena's commitment to Hindutva and its standing as an in-your-face champion of right-wing ideology. "The ideology of our party's leader the late Balasaheb Thackeray was to give a clean and honest government to the people of Maharashtra and also without compromising on the principle of Hindutva, which was defeated on the first day itself by aligning with the opposing ideologies", he said last night.In a speech that was Facebook-streamed last evening, Mr Thackeray said his "resignation letter is ready" and that "if Sena MLAs say it to me, I will quit." Being power-hungry, he said, is not in his DNA. "I am the son of Balasaheb," he reminded his party, underscoring the fact that his father abstained from taking any post in multiple governments that included his party.Acting on his words, a few hours later, his family and he moved out of the Chief Minister's official residence. Their drive to the family home, Matoshree, so far the unquestioned epicentre of Sena power, turned into an emotionally-charged journey. Workers stood along the route, chanting "we are with you". Mr Thackeray's new coordinates are intended to remind his party that he is Balasaheb's true successor. But his stock has never been lower. The BJP has not been coy about its peak role in the crisis, with not one but two states which are governed by it welcoming the rebels at the turnstile. This evening, a senior minister in Assam visited the Radisson configuration. The fact that the revolt is sponsored is not really up for debate.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comNor is the fact that it could not have foraged the Sena had Mr Thackeray and his team been paying attention. Mr Shinde's discontent had been brewing for a while, in part because he felt he was being overshadowed in the party. Mr Pawar has already asked how the Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, who is from the NCP, remained un-alerted by the state police about an entire bus-load of MLAs making an out-of-state late-night excursion.For being unavailable to his ministers and leaders - "I have been betrayed by my own", he said - Mr Thackeray appears to have lost all his privileges. Expiation, like the revolt, will have to be all-in.

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The 2/3rds rule in anti-defection law
The Indian Express | 31 minutes ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The Indian Express
31 minutes ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am

The political crisis in Maharashtra has given rise to the question whether the Shiv Sena rebels can avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.Law and exceptionUnder the anti-defection law, a member of a legislature can be disqualified if he or she has voluntarily given up membership of their political party; and if he/she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by their party (or by any person or authority authorised by the party).There is a provision to protect such legislators from disqualification. If two-thirds of the members agree to a merger with another party, they will not be disqualified. Under the 91st Amendment to the Constitution in 2003, the exemption from disqualification if one-third of the members form a separate group (the rule prior to the amendment) was removed.How courts have ruledIn February this year, the High Court of Bombay at Goa held that 10 Congress MLAs and two two MGP MLAs, who had defected to the BJP in 2019, are exempted from disqualification and held that a merger of this group of Congress MLAs is “deemed to be a merger” of the original political party with the BJP (Girish Chodankar v Speaker, Goa Legislative Assembly).In Rajendra Singh Rana v Swami Prasad Maurya (2007), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court interpreted the term “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party”, and held that “a person may be said to have voluntarily given up membership of an original party even though he or she has not tendered resignation from membership of the party” and that an inference can be drawn from conduct of the member.The two-thirds ruleSome experts believe that even if two-thirds of legislators have broken away, they will be protected from disqualification only if they merge with another party or become a separate group in the legislature.Senior advocate Devdatt Kamat, representing Shiv Sena, said that until the MLAs rebel camp merges with another party, disqualification under the anti-defection law will still apply to them. He said there are court judgements including in the Ravi Naik case (1994) in the Supreme Court which held this view.Senior advocate Shrihari Aney, a former Advocate General of Maharashtra, said there are debatable positions about the anti-defection law. “Various courts have passed verdicts as per specific facts of the case and I am of the view that the Eknath Shinde faction has already crossed the two-thirds mark and thus they cannot be subjected under this law and they are protected from the anti-defection law. They are entitled to be identified as a separate group or a ‘gat’ in the house and to participate in the proceedings.”Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxDisqualification noticesAnother issue that has arisen is whether the disqualification notices served on 16 rebel MLAs can stand the scrutiny of law. Experts said that as per the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on grounds of Defection) Rules and other stipulations, the Deputy Speaker’s decision cannot be upheld.Aney said, “In my opinion, the notices disqualifying some MLAs are void ab initio. The orders are premised on the ground that these MLAs did not attend the official meeting and did not adhere to the whip. But, a whip is limited only to the business of the legislature… Here it was for a meeting called by their president Uddhav Thackeray.”

The 2/3rds rule in anti-defection law
Suvendu hints at toppling Bengal govt, draws flak
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:45 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:45 am

Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari on Monday hinted at toppling of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in the state in 2024 after doing the same in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.The BJP leader’s controversial statement came in the backdrop of a political turmoil in Maharashtra where the alliance party government is struggling stay afloat following withdrawal of support from a section of MLAs.Addressing party workers in Cooch Behar district on Monday, Adhikari said, “It won’t have to be in 2026 (next state Assembly polls). The ouster will take place in 2024. Just wait a little more. We will oust this government in 2024. This has just begun in Maharashtra. Next it will take place in Jharkhand and Rajasthan. After Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, we will reach West Bengal.”His remarks did not go down well with the ruling dispensation in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress slamming the BJP for its attempt to topple elected government in Opposition-ruled states.“This shows the BJP’s mindset when it comes to respecting democratic norms in the country. They want to grab power by any means and that’s what they have planned for all opposition-ruled states. But Suvendu Adhikari is living in a fool’s paradise. In 2024, the BJP will go out of power,” said TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh.

Suvendu hints at toppling Bengal govt, draws flak
Buoyed by SC order, Shinde faction now plans to approach Governor
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:45 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:45 am

With the Supreme Court extending the deadline for them to file a response to disqualification notices, the Shiv Sena’s rebel group led by Eknath Shinde is learnt to be strategising to approach the Governor, informing him of their decision to withdraw support from the MVA, and thereby, prompting a floor test.Highly placed sources said, “The Shinde faction is likely to approach Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhawan, informing its decision to distance itself from Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.”Claiming to have 50 plus MLAs in its fold, Shinde camp’s decision to step out of MVA would raise a question on the numbers with Uddhav Thackeray led MVA government, which could find it difficult to prove its majority on the floor of the house if the rebel MLAs were to stick together, the sources added.The development has also sparked worries in the Sena with a senior leader pointing out: “While the Apex court has given two weeks’ time to the rebels to respond to disqualification notices served by deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal, our plea for disallowing floor test till July 11 was not considered.”Shinde camp’s confidence stems from its belief that it holds two-third majority in the Shiv Sena. At present, it is claiming support of 39 MLAs out of total 55 MLAs of the Sena. Besides, there are over 10 MLAs from smaller parties/independents with them. Their total support base has risen to over 50, the Shinde camp has claimed.The total strength of the state legislative assembly is 288 members, which has gone down to 287 with the death of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke last month. The halfway mark to form the government is 144.With Congress’s 44, NCP’s 53 and Sena’s 16 legislators, the aggregate strength of the allies stands at 111 — 33 short of the halfway mark. The number of independents/smaller parties adds up to 29 members, of which around 11 are with Shinde camp. Sources say that even if all the remaining 19 were to align with MVA, the figure still won’t cross 130.“Minus Shinde faction, MVA finds itself confronting the battle for survival in Maharashtra,” the source said.Expressing his happiness after the SC order, Shinde said, “It is a victory for Balasaheb’s Hindutva. We have always maintained that we have not walked out of Sena. Our fight is for the self respect of Sena.”Sources in the Shinde faction said, “A lot of deliberations are underway on the next course of action. We are still fighting for the rights to lead the Sena. With majority members with us, Shinde’s leadership in the party’s legislative assembly cannot be divested. We always wanted Sena to walk away from the Congress and the NCP.”Shinde’s son Shrikant alleged that the disqualification notice to his father and 15 MLAs were sent by the deputy speaker under pressure.Meanwhile, the BJP, which convened its core committee meeting at the residence of opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis on Monday, has decided to adopt “wait and watch” strategy. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “What is happening is an internal matter of Shiv Sena. We are also closely monitoring the developments.”Another senior leader, Sudhir Mungantiwar, said, “Shinde group is still not considering itself separate from Shiv Sena. At the same time, they have the support of a majority of members. So, we need to see how the situation evolves.”

Buoyed by SC order, Shinde faction now plans to approach Governor
Won’t take Guwahati route even if you behead me: Raut
Times of India | 2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:17 am
Times of India
2 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 03:17 am

Mumbai: Even as the ED has summoned Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday in two money laundering cases, he said, “I just came to know that ED has summoned me,” He tweeted further, “Good! There are big political developments in Maharashtra. We, Balasaheb’s Shivsainiks, are fighting a big battle. This is a conspiracy to stop me. Even if you behead me, I won’t take the Guwahati route. Arrest me! Jai Hind!”Last week the agency registered a case where Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd (DHFL)’s erstwhile promoters Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj are accused of a Rs 34,615-crore loan fraud along with builder Sudhakar Shetty of Sahana group. The ED is in the process of taking custody of Pune businessman Avinash Bhosale for questioning in the same case. Agency sources said ED registered the DHFL money laundering case based on a CBI FIR and while examining documents collected during the investigation, found suspicious entries linked to Sanjay Raut.The second case in which Raut’s been called for questioning is related to a Rs 1,200-crore chawl redevelopment fraud involving the Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) group, its promoters Rakesh Wadhawan and son Sarang and Sanjay Raut’s associate Pravin Raut. HDIL subsidiary Guru Ashish Construction had taken over redevelopment of Goregaon’s Patra Chawl after entering into an agreement with the land owner Mhada (a state government agency) and residents of the structure. Pravin Raut was a shareholder in Guru Ashish who received Rs 50 crore after he exited the company. Pravin Raut also received Rs 45 crore from a land deal at Palghar from the HDIL group. Earlier, ED arrested had Pravin Raut and chargesheeted him after alleging that “Pravin Raut received Rs 112 crore between 2008 and 2010 from HDIL in multiple instalments. He failed to give valid reasons.”The ED suspects that Pravin Raut is a front for some influential persons including politicians. In April, the ED had attached a flat in Mumbai owned by Sanjay Raut’s wife Varsha and eight other land parcels jointly owned by her and another businessman’s wife in Alibaug, collectively valued at Rs 11 crore. ED had alleged that these properties were purchased through money diverted by Pravin Raut.Sanjay Raut did not comment on the ED’s allegations about his involvement.

Won’t take Guwahati route even if you behead me: Raut
Maha crisis: Uddhav Thackeray strips all 9 rebel ministers of portfolios but doesn’t sack them
Times of India | 3 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 02:39 am
Times of India
3 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 02:39 am

MUMBAI: A week after the revolt began for control of Shiv Sena, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on Monday stripped all nine ministers from rebel leader Eknath Shinde's camp of their portfolios. They will remain ministers but without portfolios. By now, of the 14 ministers in the Thackeray-led government, only four including the chief minister, are from Shiv Sena. The others are industries minister Subhash Desai, transport minister Anil Parab and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray. They have all got additional portfolios. Monday's Supreme Court verdict protecting the rebel Sena MLAs from disqualification proceedings till July 12 led to speculation about whether a floor test is imminent. "The government is in a minority. The chief minister should leave the MVA government and join BJP. Then there will be no need for a floor test," rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar said. Sena's Aaditya Thackeray countered, "The rebels should come here, look into our eyes and tell us what we did wrong. That is our floor test." Congress member Balasaheb Thorat said, "No one has asked for a floor test. The CM has said 20 MLAs who are in Guwahati will back the government in the event of a trust vote." BJP's Sudhir Mungantiwar said the party will "wait and watch" and would consider such a proposal when it came. The cabinet reshuffle was prompted by concerns about work being held up. Also, by the onset of monsoon and the possibility of flooding or accidents, a press statement from Thackeray's office said. Under rule 6 of the rules of business, the chief minister has powers to re-allocate portfolio of a cabinet minister if he is not attending office since he is unwell or is not able to discharge duties. This is done to ensure works of public interest as well as routine work are not affected. Read AlsoEight ways to lose your political partyWhen politicians lose an election, they stand a chance of bouncing back in the next one. But what happens when they lose their party? It was initially decided to sack all nine rebel members, a bureaucrat said. But the Sena leadership dropped the proposal and decided to strip them of their portfolios. Meanwhile, rebel MLA Shamburaje Desai, who lost his junior minister portfolio, said, "We had no rights as junior ministers. The position was only in name. We were not able to get funds for our constituencies." Read AlsoDid Uddhav hear what BJP said about Shinde last summer?The Shiv Sena was casual about numerous signs of discontent brewing in the party. Was it over-confidence or power lulling a party into laziness?Security of Guwahati hotel housing rebel Sena MLAs tightened furtherSecurity inside and outside Radisson Blu hotel in Guwahati, where rebel Shiv Sena MLAs are camping, was upgraded to an impenetrable level on Monday, a day after the Centre provided Y+ category security cover of armed CRPF personnel to at least 15 of them, reports Prabin Kalita. Apart from a few top officers of Assam Police, a group of advocates were the only civilians allowed entry inside the hotel on Monday. In addition, crew members of several airlines that have agreements with the hotel were also allowed inside. Read AlsoWho owns brand Bal Thackeray: Saininks or the Thackerays?The rebel Shiv Sainiks led by Eknath Shinde have decided to call themselves Shiv Sena Balasaheb. This has opened a new front in their battle with Uddhav Thackeray – a brand warThe president of Shiv Sena unit in Manipur, M Tombi Singh, who had come to meet the rebel legislators, was stopped at the gates and then arrested after he was spotted talking to media outside the hotel gates. “I’ve come to talk to Eknath Shinde and tell him not to divide the party. Sena should remain as one party and we want the political crisis to end soon,” he said.

Maha crisis: Uddhav Thackeray strips all 9 rebel ministers of portfolios but doesn’t sack them