Times of India | 6 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 04:51 am
MUMBAI: On a day the ruling Shiv Sena plunged into a political crisis amid defection fears, key party strategist Anil Parab spent Tuesday answering ED questions. This time, after a third summons, he did not ask for exemption and decided to record his statement. From 11.30am to 11pm, Parab was at the zonal office of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Ballard Pier. He was called for questioning again on Wednesday. It has been seen in the past that the ED proceeds aggressively after summoning a person three times. There was political turmoil in the state but Parab was cut off from everything, including his mobile phone, while the questioning was under way. Parab is a close aide of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. He was a key person handling party affairs during the Rajya Sabha and legislative council elections this month. He is also handling the responsibility of planning the party strategy for the upcoming BMC election. When the first summons was served by the ED, Parab had asked for an exemption stating that he was on a religious tour outside the city. The second time he asked for exemption, he cited his engagement in the scheduled legislative council election on Monday. Subsequently, the ED issued him the third summons for Tuesday. For many months now Parab has been target of public grilling by the BJP, chiefly by former MP Kirit Somaiya, who made various allegations against him. BJP politicians had complained to various state and central government authorities about irregularities in the construction of a resort in Dapoli, Ratnagiri district, that had belonged to Parab. Based on these complaints, the ministry of environment, forests and climate change at the Centre filed a complaint against Parab before a magistrate's court in Dapoli for violation of environment protection rules. The complaint is pending before the court. Based on it, the ED registered the money laundering case against Parab last month and raided his premises. It also raide his friends. According to the complaint, Parab purchased an acre of agricultural land in picturesque Dapoli in 2017 for Rs 1 crore and the sale deed was executed in 2019. Sai Resort was constructed on the plot and Parab sold it to a close friend, Sadanand Kadam, for Rs 1.1 crore. It is alleged that the resort was constructed in violation of environmental rules and that Rs 6 crore unaccounted cash was spent on the construction.
In a veiled attack on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Monday said that no one should be unnecessarily upset if Rahul Gandhi has praised his “patience”.Pilot said this while reacting to Gehlot’s recent remarks on the 2020 rebellion against the Rajasthan government.The former Rajasthan deputy chief minister also said that Gehlot is an experienced, elderly and father figure for him and he does not take his words otherwise.“Earlier also, Gehlot ji has said many things about me like ‘Nakara’ (useless), ‘Nikamma’ (idle),” Pilot said.“During a programme in Delhi, former president Rahul Gandhi praised my patience. If a leader like Rahul Gandhi likes and appreciates my patience, then no one should be unnecessarily upset and should take it in the right spirit,” Pilot told reporters in Tonk.Gehlot had on Saturday said Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has proved with his statement that he was the main character in the attempts to topple his government in 2020 and was involved with Sachin Pilot.Parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal said in Kota on Sunday that whatever Gehlot said was correct.Few days ago, Shekhawat had said Sachin Pilot missed, asserting that had it been done in Rajasthan like what was done by the MLAs of Madhya Pradesh in 2020, work on the Eastern Rajasthan Canal project would have started.Pilot said that Shekhawat became a Union minister because he won from Jodhpur in 2019 Lok Sabha elections despite Congress being in power in the state, and termed it (losing election) a ‘chook’ (mistake) on part of the party.“We were in power yet we lost Jodhpur seat in the Lok Sabha elections. This was a ‘chook’ (mistake) by us,” he said.It may be noted that Jodhpur is the hometown of CM Gehlot and his son Vaibhav Gehlot had unsuccessfully contested against Shekhawat in 2019 elections.Pilot, who was PCC chief during the previous BJP rule, said the party had challenged the BJP on every front and the workers did hard work that paved the way for the formation of the Congress government.Pilot said his only focus is now to ensure that the party retains power in the 2023 assembly elections and he has given suggestions to party chief Sonia Gandhi and other leaders regarding this, and work on the suggestions is being done.“My entire focus is on how the Congress’ government should be formed again in the state,” he said.He said that if the Congress and the government work together, then the party will be able to retain the government in the state.Pilot also said that workers continue to get respect. “How can we forget the people who did everything for the party in the elections?” Pilot said.Regarding the contractual recruitment in defence forces through Agnipath scheme, Pilot said, “The scheme announced by the Centre is being opposed all over India. There is resentment among the people. We want to force the government to take it back.” On the political crisis in Maharashtra, Pilot said, “Our alliance of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP continues even today and alliance partners have said that the coalition government has done a good job. The government will complete its five-year term.” Pilot and Gehlot were at loggerheads soon after the victory of theCongress in December 2018 assembly polls to become the chief minister.The party made Gehlot the CM of Rajasthan for a third time and gave Pilot the post of deputy CM.In July 2020, Pilot along with 18 other disgruntled Congress MLAs, revolted against the leadership of Gehlot which created a crisis for the government. Later, Pilot was sacked as deputy CM and PCC chief. The month-long crisis ended after the intervention of Rahul Gandhi.
Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA from Bhiwandi East and two-time Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Corporator Rais Shaikh elaborates on where his party stands in the present political situation in Maharashtra, his experience working with the Thackerays and the future of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance.Q) The SP is part of the MVA alliance. Can you elaborate a bit on the present political situation in the state and where your party stands at this point of time?Ans) The country has two clear ideological divides. One is Hindutva where the core belief is to create a Hindu Rashtra. The other side is the liberal India which believes in the idea of the Indian constitution. The Samajwadi Party is definitely on the latter side vis a vis the Shiv Sena. Being part of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has been a difficult journey for us. While there was an ideological divide amongst the parties, the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) that was drafted was meant to ensure we meet on common ground. While the CMP was well thought out, it was quickly forgotten and that is where the problem started. Every MLA who was not a minister was sidelined. There was political interference in every constituency. In my constituency, the Chief Minister started giving funds on request letters from MLAs who had lost. At the grassroots, almost everyone was complaining. If they say that this present situation has been precipitated by the fear of ED (Enforcement Directorate) or due to Hindutva, they are daydreaming. There was clear discontent amongst MLAs who were not accepting the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray. On top of this, we had Aaditya Thackeray who never met anyone.Q) Do you think the moderate face of Hindutva projected by Uddhav Thackeray became a liability for the Shiv Sena?Ans) That is the core of the problem — the transition from a Hindutva party to designing your own Hindutva within the family. The Shiv Sena has a peculiar DNA. Uddhavji was trying to portray that my Hindutva is different from yours. Then Aaditya was creating a big deviation where he was moving towards more of an AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) kind of ideology, trying to get religion-neutral votes. This conflict within the family was dividing the Sena itself.Q) How do you analyse the functioning of Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray?Ans) Uddhavji would think that people will tolerate anything just because he was a Thackeray, which led to him taking others lightly. When I met for Rajya Sabha voting, there was no serious negotiation. When I asked others around him why they didn’t tell him about these issues, they would say you cannot tell critical things to the Thackerays; you can only reply to their questions and you cannot advise them. You can have a conversation with Sharad Pawar, you can fight with Ajit Pawar but you cannot tell the Thackerays anything. With them, it is just one-way communication. With Aaditya, you can talk to him about nice things like what is happening in Davos. But if you tell him that there is garbage strewn around in BDD chawl and something needs to be done, he would get uncomfortable. I had a conversation with him where I told him that his politics was 10 years ahead of time and that these issues will not get votes. He told me somebody should think beyond only votes. I, however, told him that this is not the time. But then he starts ignoring you and stops talking to you.Q) What future do you see of the MVA?Ans) The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the SP who are committed to secularism will stay together. I am not saying that the state of Maharashtra has accepted Hindutva; it is the MLAs who have accepted it. Maharashtra is a progressive and socialist state and there is place for secular politics. As far as the Sena is concerned, it is not as if the whole Shiv Sena has gone with Shinde. Only the powerful people have left and we must remember that powerful people keep changing. Even today, Shiv Sena has a large grassroot support.Q) Amid complaints over how the CM was not accessible and development funds were not allocated appropriately, as an ally of the MVA, how receptive was the CM toward smaller parties like you? Were your demands from when you joined the alliance fulfilled? What was his approach to issues like Muslim reservation?Ans) He was consciously ignoring us. He always felt that any discussion or statement on minorities will alienate his Hindutva votes. There were, however, two very distinct phases in his style of functioning. Soon after he took over, he was very receptive. After CAA-NRC was brought in, we had a debate over it. He comforted me. There was communication and we had the satisfaction that we had a CM who was willing to listen and felt he was a person you can work with. During Covid, however, we lost him completely. We would meet in assembly, he would ignore everybody. He was just making guest appearances.Q) You have seen the functioning of MMRDA and BMC very closely. Did you feel at any point that Eknath Shinde was continuously being sidelined and if yes, in what ways?Ans) It was happening every time. If Eknath Shinde is the minister for Urban Development and MMRDA is functioning under him, why should Aaditya go and chair its meetings? He was behaving like a prince passing instructions “isko itna fund dena hai, usko utna”. Either your father should make you the party chief or you wait for your opportunity. So, every bureaucrat was really confused with each day.Q) The Maharashtra unit of the SP is identified by many as a Muslim party. There is this perception that many so-called Muslim parties eventually end up being consciously or unconsciously the B team of the BJP by splitting the secular vote. How do you respond to that?Ans) I compromised and became part of the MVA, and contested only three seats. On one of these seats, we had a sitting MLA, in the other two, we were the number two party. I have curtailed my party for the larger secular interest. I did not say I want to fight on several seats like AIMIM did last time in Maharashtra. Second point is my track record, I win seats consistently. I am not like AIMIM, which wins once in Byculla and next time from Dhule. There is a huge difference between AIMIM and us. For the last 25 years, we have been doing stable consistent politics. Our public representatives have consistently won. We have compromised for the larger interest to ensure the Congress or the NCP do not lose because of us.Q) You know how the BMC functions and how the contractor lobbies operate. So, do you see any hope for Mumbai’s roads which develop potholes and get flooded every year?Ans) The BMC is a 125-year-old organisation and we are still depending on a certain handful of contractors to do most of the works. Aaditya (Thackeray) who is a minister could have intervened and changed it. I remember as a child, BMC’s own employees would be used for road construction and surfacing work. This work was cheap and durable. The Shiv Sena has complicated this process by giving out contracts. The rate of road contract is Rs 14,000 per sq metre in our city while the same work was once done by us for as low as Rs 2,800. The Sena has created a cruel financial model in the city. We have to take the focus off contractors. We have a force of 1.25 lakh people working for BMC, which needs to be used effectively.Q) Are you in favour of the BMC being split for better administration?Ans) BMC has a beautiful way of decentralising — we already have administrative wards, we have departments, additional municipal commissioners. I am not in favour of breaking up the BMC. The administrative wards need to be reorganised, I would say. It needs to be made more efficient.
NEW DELHI: In a serious setback to the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court on Monday protected rebel Sena MLAs from disqualification proceedings till July 12, directed the ruling coalition to ensure their safety in Maharashtra and, importantly, refused the Sena-NCP-Congress coalition's request to stop the Eknathrao S Shinde-led rebels from demanding a floor test in the assembly. Shinde tweeted on the SC order, "This is the victory of Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe's thoughts." हा वंदनीय हिंदुहृदयसम्राट शिवसेनाप्रमुख बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांच्या हिंदुत्वाचा आणि धर्मवीर आनंद दिघे साहेबांच्या विचा… https://t.co/FPRiQJL8ux— Eknath Shinde - एकनाथ शिंदे (@mieknathshinde) 1656329992000A string of senior advocates - A M Singhvi, Rajeev Dhavan and Devadatt Kamat - made strenuous attempts on behalf of MVA and the deputy speaker to persuade a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala not to interfere in the disqualification proceedings against 15 of the 39 rebel Sena MLAs supporting Shinde, saying it fell in the exclusive domain of the speaker. When the effort did not work, Kamat tried to stop the likely effort to bring out CM Thackeray's diminished support by requesting that if the disqualification proceedings, which were to commence after the end of deadline for the 15 rebel MLAs at 5.30pm on Monday to present themselves before the deputy speaker, are being deferred, then the status quo as of Monday be maintained and there should be no demand from the rebels for a floor test. MVA govt trying to avoid floor test: Shinde's lawyerShinde's counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul promptly said "now the cat is out of the bag" and that the minority MVA government wants to avoid a floor test. The bench told Kamat that passing a restraint order on a floor test would give rise to unnecessary complications but told him the MVA was free to move court if any illegalities were committed. Kaul argued that as per a Constitution bench judgment of the SC in Nabam Rebia case, a speaker or deputy speaker facing motion of removal is prohibited from initiating disqualification proceedings against any MLA. He said the rebel MLAs had given notice on June 21 seeking removal of deputy speaker (Narhari Zirwal of NCP). Disqualification proceedings initiated against the rebel Sena MLAs is a counter manoeuver, he alleged. Kaul's argument found favour with the Supreme Court vacation bench headed by Justice Kant and submissions of Singhvi, Dhavan and Kamat failed to counter it. The bench asked Dhavan whether the deputy speaker would defer disqualification proceedings against the rebel MLAs till notice for his removal is decided by the House. But Dhavan insisted the rebel MLAs must present themselves before the deputy speaker on Monday itself to respond to disqualification notices. This made the bench pass the interim order deferring disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law.
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.”
MUMBAI: BJP on Monday finally opened up about the Eknath Shinde-led revolt in Shiv Sena, refusing to call that camp "rebels" and saying it was open to considering proposals on government formation from the faction. "We do not consider anyone a rebel. If two-thirds of the MLAs are with Shinde, how can they be called rebels?" asked senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, speaking after a meeting at Devendra Fadnavis' house. So far, BJP had termed the Sena turmoil an internal matter of the party and refused to comment on it. However, after Monday's Supreme Court order shielding the rebels, it immediately held a meeting of its state core committee. "Based on the Supreme Court order, whatever proposals (on government formation) come forward will be considered. BJP is closely watching the day-to-day events, the core committee will meet again and take a decision at the appropriate time in the interest of the state and its people," he added. "Shiv Sena group leader Eknath Shinde has so far not given us any proposal. Whenever a proposal comes from Shiv Sena - since they call themselves the true Sena - we shall consider it," he said. Mungantiwar added that at this point, BJP does not feel the need to ask for a floor test.