Times of India | 5 days ago | 23-06-2022 | 04:23 am
MUMBAI: Asserting his hold over the party, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde wrote to Maharashtra deputy speaker Narahari Jirwal on Wednesday disputing his ouster as group leader of the Sena legislature party. He argued that the resolution to remove him was invalid since the meeting was attended by only 16 of the 55 MLAs. The letter said he had the backing of the majority of MLAs and would be legislature party leader. Shinde informed the deputy speaker that he had appointed MLA Bharat Gogawale as the party's chief whip, thus indicating that the existing whip Sunil Prabhu had been shown the door. Prabhu had on Wednesday issued a whip asking all Sena MLAs to be present for a meeting at the chief minister's official residence. Shinde's purported appointment of a new whip was aimed at establishing that Prabhu's summons to the MLAs was "legally invalid." The day's developments showed that the struggle for dominance in the Sena has also turned into a battle of whips and legislature party leaders. Political experts say the Chief Whip and legislature party leader's posts becomes critical in such situations. "The whip plays a very important role in legislature politics. The whip can issue directions to vote and is the party's enforcer. They instruct fellow MLAs to vote in line with the party's decision. Members who vote against the whip can be disqualified and can also be expelled. So in the current case, it will be important to see which whip is recognised, whether it is Sunil Prabhu or Bharat Gogavale," a legislature functionary said. A similar battle had played out in 2019; the debate was whether deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who had joined hands with BJP, continued to be the NCP's whip since the party itself claimed that its state unit chief Jayant Patil, and not Pawar, was the chief whip. "The Shinde camp now claims to have 2/3rds of MLAs so technically the party is now the Shinde camp. And they appointed their own whip, Bharat Gogavale. The Shinde camp has given a letter signed by 34 Sena MLAs reiterating that Shinde is the legislature party leader. They have claimed that Sena's appointment of Ajay Chaudhari as legislature party leader is illegal. But we are told that the deputy speaker has already recognised Chaudhari as the legislature party leader," said a political observer. Another former legislature functionary said since the MLAs in the Shinde camp have also passed a resolution and signed it saying that Chaudhari's appointment was void as 'being without jurisdiction' the deputy speaker's recognition of Chaudhari's appointment could come under challenge.Another functionary from the Shinde camp said, "majority of the MLAs are with Shinde. If any Sena MLAs attend meetings called by Prabhu's whip, they may be expelled. Since the legislature party leader is Eknath Shinde, his appointment of the whip may be considered as valid."