Minister leads Shiv Sena revolt, ruling MVA fights for survival in Maharashtra

The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 05:45 am

Minister leads Shiv Sena revolt, ruling MVA fights for survival in Maharashtra

The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi, which came to power in Maharashtra in November 2019, plunged into crisis Tuesday after Shiv Sena leader and state Urban Development and Public Works Minister Eknath Shinde revolted against his party Monday night and showed up in a Surat hotel with over 30 MLAs including three ministers.Caught napping, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was battling to save his government, sending aides to Surat to open lines of communication with the rebels. Only 18 of his party’s 55 MLAs were present at a meeting called at Varsha, the CM’s official residence, in the afternoon. The Sena removed Shinde as the party’s leader in the state Assembly, replacing him with Shivadi MLA Ajay Choudhari.Shinde’s revolt, hours after the Legislative Council elections in which the MVA suffered a setback following cross-voting by MLAs, has put a question mark on the future of the coalition.In the House of 288 which is currently at 287 owing to the death of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke last month, the MVA needs at least 144 MLAs. Before the revolt, its strength in the House was 152 — Sena 55, NCP 53, Congress 44. The BJP strength is 106 while Others account for the remaining 29.Given that 37 Sena MLAs did not attend the meeting that Uddhav had called, the coalition appeared to be in a precarious position. Under the anti-defection law, a two-thirds majority will be required to stake claim as a separate group. If Shinde retains 37 of the Sena’s 55 MLAs, the way ahead for him will be clear.In the Shinde camp are three ministers — Shambhuraj Desai (MoS Home); Abdul Sattar (MoS Revenue); and, Sandipan Bhumare (MoS EGS and Horticulture).Sena MP Sanjay Raut blamed the BJP for the revolt in his party. “The BJP is carrying out Operation Lotus from Gujarat. The Sena members have been forcibly kept in a hotel. They were also attacked. It tantamounts to kidnapping. Many of them who wanted to return were held back by police. Some conveyed that their life was in danger,” he claimed.The BJP, on the other hand, was keeping its cards close to its chest, adopting a “wait and watch” mantra. Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, “In politics, nothing can be ruled out. But we are not dislodging the government. The Sena is facing a revolt from its own members.” The split in the Sena, he said, reflects the lack of trust that members have in the party’s leadership.BJP sources said two senior party leaders, Union Minister Bhupender Yadav and party national general secretary C T Ravi, have been assigned the task of holding talks with Shinde and the rebel MLAs. BJP managers said, “The party would like to see how Thackeray handles the in-house crisis. We are not in a hurry to make any decision.”As the Sena swung into damage control, Shinde sent a clear message via a Twitter post: “We are Balasaheb’s loyal Sainiks. Balasaheb taught us Hindutva. Our commitment to Balasaheb’s Hindutva and teachings of Anand Dighe remains uncompromised. We have never cheated for power.”The Sena removed Shinde as its leader in the House and sent emissaries Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak to Surat for talks with the rebels.The revolt in the Sena had coalition partners NCP and Congress clearly worried. Although NCP chief Sharad Pawar said, “It is an internal matter of Shiv Sena,” his party leader Chhagan Bhujbal said, “A storm has hit Maharashtra. Hopefully, it will recede.” Congress state president Nana Patole said, “The BJP has always tried to destabilise the government. But we are strong.”In Surat, Shinde and the Sena rebels checked into a hotel. By 2 pm, Sanjay Kute, BJP MLA from Jalgaon in Maharashtra, was seen arriving at the hotel.In the House of 288 which is currently at 287 owing to the death of one of the members, the MVA needs at least 144 MLAs. Before the revolt, its strength in the House was 152. Given that 37 Sena MLAs did not attend the meeting that Uddhav called, the coalition is in a precarious position.Uddhav’s emissaries Narvekar and Phatak were made to wait outside the hotel for nearly 20 minutes before being  allowed entry. They were in the hotel for nearly two hours, sources said. Of the 170 rooms in the hotel, 30 rooms on the second floor had been taken by the MLAs, sources said.Sena MLA Nitin Deshmukh, who was in the hotel as part of the rebel group, took ill and had to be admitted to the New Civil Hospital in Surat. His wife Pranjali reported her husband as “missing” at the Civil Lines police station in Akola, Maharashtra.Sena members and Deshmukh’s friends Dilip Bavche and Mahadev Gavde came from Akola in the evening but were told Deshmukh was no longer in the hospital. Gavde told The Indian Express, “Police intentionally kept us waiting on the first floor. They told us that Deshmukh is in a meeting with Shinde and the doctors. After an hour and half, police told us that Deshmukh had left for the hotel.”Layers of security have been placed outside the hotel on the Surat-Dumas road. Police placed barricades 200 metres from the hotel and only guests who had checked in before the MLAs showed up were allowed inside after screening. Surat police are also checking vehicles going towards Dumas, a popular beachside destination for city residents..

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Maharashtra political crisis: Rebel MLAs cannot be disqualified for absence at party meetings as that’s outside assembly, say experts
Times of India | 5 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 08:31 am
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MUMBAI: The political drama unfolding in Maharashtra now has legal experts divided too on whether disqualification can be sought for the ‘rebels’ in the Shiv Sena. However, most are in agreement that the MLAs cannot be disqualified on grounds of not attending recent party meetings as that is outside the ambit of legislative affairs. The party’s petition to the deputy speaker seeking disqualification of 16 MLAs including rebel leader Eknath Shinde has sought to invoke para 2 (1) (a) of the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which governs ‘disqualification on grounds of defection’. A senior counsel from Delhi said the party may be relying on a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in a Karnataka case to argue that the actions of the MLAs would “portray defection.” The Sena plea is that at a “crucial time” during “political uncertainty” when the party needed to consolidate, meetings were called on June 21-22 and despite issuing notices, these MLAs did not attend and instead left for Surat and Guwahati which are in BJP-ruled States. The plea said the BJP, in a conspiracy with these MLAs, is trying to topple the govt and in these circumstances, their not attending the meetings amounted to voluntarily giving up membership of the party; remaining incommunicado and not responding to the call of the leadership also shows that they have given up membership and hence they should be disqualified, it said. However, former attorney general S G Aney said the disqualification process would be “void” legally as not attending the meetings would not amount to quitting the party. Lack of attendance at meetings “cannot be taken into the realm of legislature’s action and the Speaker has no authority over the matter. At best it would be a matter for the party’s internal consideration for consequences on such unbecoming behavior,” said Aney. Anil Sakhare, a senior counsel, also agreed that at this juncture it may not attract disqualification. Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar said the situation is “very fluid’’ but if by their conduct it can be shown that they have left the party, then it may attract disqualification. “But rebels can claim merger,” he added. To overcome any threat of disqualification they have to show 2/3rd members of a party have merged with another party. Under the 10th Schedule paragraph 4, disqualification on grounds of defection would not apply in case of a merger with another party. “It will eventually depend on the facts which at the moment are not all clear,’’ said another senior counsel from Delhi. He added, “At this stage prima facie, there can be no disqualifications since not attending the meeting does not amount to voluntarily giving up the membership of the party. It would depend on the explanation that the member may give. A party cannot single out a few members if there is support of two-third members in the rebel faction. The Karnataka case was different on facts.”

Maharashtra political crisis: Rebel MLAs cannot be disqualified for absence at party meetings as that’s outside assembly, say experts
Maharashtra: Eknath Shinde supporters in Ahmednagar, Jalgaon civic bodies sit on the fence
Times of India | 8 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:09 am
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8 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:09 am

NASHIK/AURANGABAD: Members of Shiv Sena in Ahmednagar and Jalgaon municipal corporations are in 'tight spot' following the rebellion by Eknath Shinde. Ahmednagar civic body has 25 Sena corporators and shares power with NCP. Sena got its mayor in Jalgaon Municipal Corporation last year after a defection of 30 BJP corporators engineered by Shinde. Sena sources in Ahmednagar city unit told TOI that at least 10-12 Sena corporators have endorsed the stand taken by Shinde about toeing the Hindutva line. Adav told TOI that although he has huge respect for Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, he fully endorses and supports Shinde. He also said Uddhav is still the chief of Sena. "The party is moving away from its core principle by aligning with parties that are not natural allies of Sena," he said, adding the leaders deputed by central leadership to oversee party affairs in Ahmednagar are ruining Sena in the district. Sena leaders from Jalgaon claimed there is no threat to the ruling party in the civic body, one of the defectors admitted he is watching the political developments keenly. "If the Shinde faction joins hands with BJP to form the government, there is a possibility of a political turmoil in the Jalgaon civic body," added Sena sources. Jalgaon city president Suresh Bhole mocked the defectors saying that they have 'dug their own grave' by deserting BJP. In Aurangabad, which had Shiv Sena and BJP in alliance for the municipal corporation, party workers were confident of bagging more than expected number of seats. The term for the previous body elected ended in April 2020 and since then, the AMC is being headed and run by administrator Astik Kumar Pandey. Former Shiv Sena mayor Nandkumar Ghodele said, "For the first two days, we felt that the rebellion would dent the party. But with the passing of time, we sense a growing sympathy and love for Sena and Thackeray family." He said that in the upcoming civic body elections, Sena will definitely get more seats as people are criticising the rebel camp. During the previous term, Shiv Sena won 28 seats and post election, seven independents joined the fold.

Maharashtra: Eknath Shinde supporters in Ahmednagar, Jalgaon civic bodies sit on the fence
Koregaon Bhima inquiry commission gets another extension till December 31
The Indian Express | 9 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 03:45 am
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9 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 03:45 am

MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT has granted yet another extension to the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry. An order to this effect has been issued by the home department on June 20. As per this order, the commission has been given an extension of six months till December 31, 2022.The two-member commission, headed by retired high court judge Justice J N Patel with former chief secretary Sumit Malik as the other member, was constituted by the state government on February 9, 2018, to inquire into the “exact sequence” of events that led to violence on the 200th anniversary of Battle of Koregaon Bhima on January 1 that year. One person had died and several others were left injured in the violence.The commission was initially given four months to submit its report, but its tenure had to be repeatedly extended to allow it to complete its work. Subsequently, the commission received extensions from time to time. The Commission received a two months extension from February 8, 2020 to April 8, 2020. But due to the Covid-19 outbreak, on March 23, 2020, the commission issued a letter postponing the hearings till further notice. Meanwhile, the period of extension granted to the commission by the government expired on April 8.The commission then sought further extension of at least six months, saying that it intended to examine nearly 40 to 50 more witnesses, including police and revenue officers, and a few prominent political leaders. Accordingly, the state government gave the commission an extension till December 31, 2021. The commission then conducted hearings in Pune and Mumbai, but a few important witnesses remain to be examined. So, the panel sought another extension of six months from the state government.Then, the government again granted extension to the commission till June 30, 2022. During this period, the commission examined some witnesses including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. However, some important witnesses are part heard and yet to be examined.“So we submitted a status report of the commission and sought one more extension from the government. So far, examination of 38 witnesses is completed. And the commission wants to examine about 15 more witnesses. Government has granted an extension of six months till December 31, 2022. The schedule for the next hearings will be released soon,” said V V Palnitkar, secretary of the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry.On Thursday, IPS officers Vishwas Nangare Patil and Suvez Haque deposed as witnesses before the commission in Mumbai. Their examination in chief was recorded by commission’s lawyer Aashish Satpute. Currently, joint commissioner (law and order) of Mumbai police, Nangare Patil was the special inspector general of police, Kolhapur range at the time of violence in Koregaon Bhima area (in the jurisdiction of Pune rural police), which was under his supervision. Haque is currently attached to the CBI and was the superintendent (SP) of Pune rural police at the time of Koregaon Bhima violence.

Koregaon Bhima inquiry commission gets another extension till December 31
Maharashtra: Top police brass asked to be on alert
The Indian Express | 9 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 03:45 am
The Indian Express
9 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 03:45 am

TOP officers of the Maharashtra Police held meetings with commissioners and SPs across the state, asking them to be on alert in the wake of the political crisis prevailing the state. Officers have been asked to identify possible troublemakers and ensure there is no breakdown of law and order in the state.An IPS officer said, “We are concerned about any law-and-order situation in the state especially when the rebel faction comes to the state. We are also keeping an eye out for any possible violence by the Shiv Sainiks against some of the MLAs, who have joined ranks with Shinde.”The officer added that so far, there have been three instances in Mumbai and one in Kolhapur linked to the political crisis. In Mumbai, Shiv Sena workers damaged the offices of rebel MLAs Kudalkar, Sada Sarvankar and Dilip Lande on Friday when their posters blackened. “Local police stations have been asked to ensure that family members of rebel leaders are not attacked,” an officer said.The officer added that they are wary of any street fights between supporters of either side, especially in areas like Thane, which is Shinde’s stronghold. “We have kept reserve police like the State Reserve Police Force on standby to ensure that if there is any issue, prompt action can be taken,” an officer said.“Generally, every MLA in his constituency has rivals, who we fear will use the situation to their advantage in cases where the legislator has defected,” an IPS officer told The Indian Express.There are indications that the Union government may provide the rebel MLAs CRPF cover when they come to Mumbai. “It is the prerogative of the Centre to provide security to any individual or group that it deems fit,” the officer added.

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