Behind Surat to Guwahati flight: fear of rebels returning to Sena next door

The Indian Express | 5 days ago | 23-06-2022 | 03:45 am

Behind Surat to Guwahati flight: fear of rebels returning to Sena next door

THE DECISION to fly out the rebel Shiv Sena and Independent MLAs from Surat to Guwahati, both in BJP-ruled states, was taken after it was learnt that at least two Sena MLAs were not on the same page as Shinde — and that Surat was “too close to Maharashtra”, which might lead to the revolt failing, sources told The Indian Express.Surat was initially considered a “safe” place, given that it is home to the influential Gujarat BJP chief C R Patil. And yet, it was Patil aide and Surat Municipal Corporation standing committee chairman Paresh Patel, who managed the evacuation of MLAs to Guwahati.A senior BJP leader from Vadodara said: “There is a lot of pressure on the MLAs, especially those who joined the rebellion because they are miffed but not yet decided about what will happen next. After one of the MLAs had an argument with the others and left the hotel, we heard that there were a few other voices questioning the decision to rebel in such a manner. Also, more leaders from Maharashtra were expected to travel to Surat to pressure groups close to them…”🚨 Limited Time Offer | Express Premium with ad-lite for just Rs 2/ day 👉🏽 Click here to subscribe 🚨On Wednesday, Balapur (Akola) MLA Nitin Deshmukh claimed he was forcefully admitted to a hospital in Surat and administered injections against his will when he wanted to return to Maharashtra. And Osmanabad MLA Kailas Patil claimed he was “misled” by Shinde’s men into believing he was accompanying them for dinner but instead taken in a car to Gujarat, when he “managed to escape” about 40 km ahead of Thane. Both Vadodara and Surat have a sizable Marathi-speaking population.On Tuesday, Maharashtra Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had sent two aides Milind Narvekar and MLC Ravindra Phatak to Surat to meet the rebel leaders. They were inside the Le Meridien hotel, where the rebels were housed, for almost two hours but the talks failed.“The decision to shift to Guwahati happened sometime in the evening after the Maharashtra government sent its emissaries,” the Vadodara BJP leader said.According to sources, the move to Surat and onward to Guwahati was “meticulously planned”. “Guwahati was chosen because it is safer geographically and politically. First of all, the Northeast is not a region that has become a centre for such political activities. It is not well connected with Maharashtra, which makes it difficult for the MLAs to go out of the state without the knowledge of the state administration,” said a BJP source. Besides, the source said, Assam is not within easy reach of some of Maharashtra’s industrialists who would have helped Thackeray or his close aides influence their colleagues. Another state BJP leader said the shifting was necessary to “deny access to Gujarat leaders of NCP and Congress, the Shiv Sena’s allies in Maharashtra”. The leader pointed out that NCP has a base in Gujarat with leaders like Jayant Patel.“Sharad Pawar is a powerful leader. And our party will not take any chances with him, after failing to form the government in Maharashtra once earlier. Assam is the place where NCP and Shiv Sena don’t have any standing at present… where chances of Pawar having any clout are almost nil. So Guwahati was the safest place to shift those MLAs,” the leader said.An NCP leader from Gujarat claimed that many of the rebel MLAs “have been kidnapped”. “The wives of many of them have lodged police complaints. Some have already escaped and made allegations. Surat is very close to Maharashtra and the MVA leaders would have tried to reach out to them.” the leader said.The Sena has no presence in Gujarat electorally. The closest it came was when it won the bypoll last November to the Lok Sabha seat of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a Union Territory, which fell vacant after incumbent MP Mohan Delkar died by suicide. The seat was won by Delkar’s wife Kalaben on a Sena ticket. “We have a very close relationship with Maharash-tra not just due to proximity but by politics, trade, business and even culture. The fact that this rebellion could lead to a possible split of Shiv Sena and change the political canvas of Maharashtra can even cause a law and order problem in either of the states…Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, has a sizable Gujarati population. So it is better if the internal matter of the Sena is dealt with by them in a neutral place,” the BJP leader said.

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The 2/3rds rule in anti-defection law
The Indian Express | 43 minutes ago | 28-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The Indian Express
43 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
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
Shinde camp views SC order as victory; disqualification inevitable, says Sena
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 12:45 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 28-06-2022 | 12:45 am

The Supreme Court’s order on Monday, extending the time for Eknath Shinde and 15 other rebel MLAs in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly to file written response to the Deputy Speaker’s disqualification notice till July 12, was deemed as a victory by the rebel camp. On the other hand, the Shiv Sena also put up a brave front stating that the interim order had only postponed the inevitable disqualification of the rebel MLAs.“We have won this major battle as the court has given us a major relief and we have time to contemplate on how to take the next step, whether we have to come to Mumbai for floor test or not. We have given all the authority of decision to Shinde saheb who will decide on the further course of action,” rebel MLA Bharat Gogawale, the chief whip of the Shinde camp, said.When asked if there is any plan on joining hands with the BJP, Gogawale, said, “We have 51 MLAs and we have to go with someone to form an alliance. We cannot go with the Congress or the NCP and there is only one option, which is the BJP.”Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson of the Shinde camp, said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena will form the government in the state, adding that their leader will be Uddhav Thackeray and that the Congress and the NCP should walk out of the government “instead of asking Thackeray saheb to resign”.Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena Member of Parliament from South Mumbai, who has been spearheading the battle for disqualification for the MVA, however, called the interim order as “postponement of the inevitable disqualification”.“They have only got time…that doesn’t mean it is a setback to MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi). The process has just been postponed. Now we are in a wait-and-watch position and we will decide on our further course of action depending upon what they (the rebel camp) are doing,” Sawant said.

Shinde camp views SC order as victory; disqualification inevitable, says Sena