Times of India | 4 days ago | 24-06-2022 | 01:36 am
MUMBAI: The MVA government led by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray stayed shaky on Thursday as the ranks of the dissidents continued to swell. Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde claimed strength of 42 party MLAs, with more arriving by the night, including those who had stayed with the party at the start of the revolt. Shinde also revealed the BJP’s support to the coup in a video in which he told his faction, “A national party has said it will provide whatever help we require.” Without naming the party, he said it was a “superpower”. The BJP’s central leadership, sources said, will steer the party’s moves in Maharashtra on government formation. On Thursday evening, opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis left for Delhi to meet home minister Amit Shah. Read AlsoWhy Fadnavis has to thank two Eknaths if he returns to powerWith the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra fighting fire, all eyes are on the former chief minister, who is not only seen as the chief architect behind the ongoing political crisis, but is most likely to lead the state again“Eknath Shinde has achieved the two-thirds mark required to avoid action under the anti-defection law. We shall soon know what is to be done,” sources said. Maharashtra deputy speaker backs Shiv Sena over Shinde blocDeputy speaker of the state assembly Narhari Zirwal backed Shiv Sena over Eknath Shinde’s dissident faction in the clash over choice of the group leader of the Sena legislature party. “I have accepted the letter appointing Ajay Choudary as the group leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party,” said Zirwal, adding he would have to examine the letter sent by Shinde’s faction before making a decision. Sena had replaced Shinde, who used to head the legislature party, with Ajay Choudary as the party’s group leader after his rebellion on Tuesday and sent a letter to Zirwal. Read AlsoMLA’s letter explains how Uddhav lost the plotIn a frank response to Maharashtra chief minister’s recent emotional address via Facebook Live, Aurangabad (west) MLA Sanjay Shirsat says when Uddhav Thackeray shut access to the MLAs of his own party, it was Eknath Shinde who helped and guided themOn Wednesday, the rebel faction submitted a letter re-appointing Shinde. It said the resolution to oust him was invalid since the meeting had been attended by only 16 of the party’s 55 legislators. The dissident faction’s letter was signed by 34 MLAs. “I will have to examine the letter. There are some things that have appeared in the media. For instance, Nitin Deshmukh has said he did not sign the letter. The signatures of independent MLAs will not be considered,” said Zirwal. All eyes are now on Zirwal as the assembly still does not have a speaker. Legal experts said Zirwal, as deputy speaker, would have all the powers of the speaker and will have to discharge all the functions of the speaker as allowed by Articles 95 and 180.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Aaditya Thackeray said that there was anger among party workers over the action of party rebels.Mumbai: Attacking rebel MLAs of the party who are staying at a hotel in Guwahati, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray accused them of "betraying" the party and said, "dirt has gone out of Shiv Sena".Mr Thackeray, who was addressing Shivsainiks in Mumbai amid the political crisis faced by the MVA government in Maharashtra, said the party rebels were "enjoying" in Guwahati when Assam was dealing with floods in parts of the state.He said the leader of the rebel group Eknath Shinde was offered the post of Chief Minister in May but "he did drama"."Many people told us that Congress & NCP will betray us but our people betrayed us. Many MLAs who were watchmen, rickshaw drivers, and paan shopkeepers - we made them Ministers. On 20th May, Uddhav Thackeray offered him (Eknath Shinde) the CM post and he did drama," Aaditya Thackeray said.He said there was anger among party workers over the action of party rebels."I can understand your zeal and strength, can even notice your anger. I've been visiting and interacting with Shivsainiks and I can see there is a lot of anger among them. But there is one positive thing the dirt has gone out of Shiv Sena," he said.Aaditya Thackeray claimed that the food bill of rebel MLAs was to the tune of Rs 9 lakh per day and alleged they were taking private choppers."They (rebel MLAs) went to Guwahati where there's a flood situation & many people are without shelter & food. They (rebel MLAs) are enjoying there. Bill for meals (for them) in one day is Rs 9 Lakhs, they are taking private choppers and enjoying there. Shame on them," he said.Referring to Income Tax searches earlier this year on party corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who is husband of Yamini Jadhav, a rebel MLA, Aaditya Thackeray said they had protested the action of the Income Tax Department but her remarks had brought tears to his eyes."When there was a raid on Yamini Jadhav (rebel MLA) & Yashwant, we came out on streets. Y'day Yamini Jadhav said it was not needed. Many people had suggested to not give them chance but we gave them opportunity. What she said yesterday brought tears to my eyes," he said.The Shiv Sena camp led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the rebel group have been seeking to outmanoeuvre each other. While the Thackeray group removed Mr Shinde as leader of the legislative party and appointed a new chief whip, supporters of Mr Shinde wrote to the state Governor that he continues to be the leader of the Shiv Sena legislature group. They also appointed a chief whip.The battle between the groups has now reached the Supreme Court which on Monday granted interim relief to Mr Shinde and other MLAs to file their reply to disqualification notices issued to them by the Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly by July 12, 5.30 pm.Earlier, the Deputy Speaker had granted them time to file a reply by Monday, 5.30 pm.The Supreme Court was hearing the petitions filed by the Shinde group challenging the disqualification notices issued by the Deputy Speaker to 16 rebel MLAs as well as the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader.The bench also issued notices to the Deputy Speaker, Secretary of Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, the Centre, Ajay Chaudhary, and Sunil Prabhu and asked them to file a reply within five days.On the request of providing security to 39 MLAs alleging threats to them, the Supreme Court recorded the statement of the standing counsel of the Maharashtra government, Rahul Chitnis, that adequate steps have already been taken and the state government will further ensure that no harm is caused to the life, liberty, property of the MLAs.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comDuring the hearing, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul appearing for Eknath Shinde and others told the Supreme Court that the Deputy Speaker cannot proceed with the disqualification proceedings when the resolution seeking his removal is pending.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)