The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 24-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in Maharashtra appeared to be on the verge of collapse Thursday after Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray lost the support of majority party MLAs who rallied behind rebel leader Eknath Shinde and his call for ending the alliance with the “ideologically opposed” NCP and Congress.In a tacit admission that Uddhav was no longer in control of his legislators, Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the party was ready to walk out of the MVA government.“If you are Shiv Sainiks, if you are saying that you are not leaving Shiv Sena and that your issue is with the government, then Shiv Sena is willing to walk out of the government and MVA alliance. But first show the courage to come here and put forward your demands in front of Uddhav Saheb. Surely, it will be considered. Come back within 24 hours, we will sit with Uddhav Saheb and think on accepting your demands,” he said.In the same breath, Raut said, “We are in contact with 21 MLA who are in Guwahati and when they come to Mumbai, they will be with us. If there is a situation of floor test, I am sure they will vote for the MVA alliance.”Until Wednesday night, a total of 32 Sena MLAs were in the Shinde camp in Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam. But that number touched 37 — Shinde needed the support of 37 of the 55 Sena MLAs to form a breakaway group and avoid the anti-defection law — when five more MLAs switched sides and headed to Guwahati Thursday.While three MLAs — Deepak Kesarkar, Sada Sarvankar, Aashish Jaiswal — joined Shinde early Thursday morning, another two — Dada Bhuse and Sanjay Rathod – reached Guwahati in the evening.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.Hoping to return to power, and not willing to reveal its cards yet, the BJP has been waiting for Shinde to rustle up the numbers that he needs to beat the anti-defection law.Uddhav, who moved out of the Chief Minister’s official residence Varsha Wednesday night along with his family and belongings, called a virtual meeting of all party MLAs Thursday. Only 18 MLAs including son Aaditya Thackeray attended the meeting. While Uddhav and Aaditya attended the meeting from Matoshree, the MLAs were called to Varsha in the afternoon.Also present at the meeting were MLAs Kailas Patil and Nitin Deshmukh who claimed they were forcibly taken to the Shinde camp. At a press conference addressed by Raut, the two MLAs narrated how they were taken to Surat and then to Guwahati by Shinde and how they struggled to return.While Deshmukh claimed he escaped from the camp, the Shinde camp released videos and photographs of them travelling in chartered aircraft and claimed they were sent back because they wanted to return.Meanwhile, newly appointed Shiv Sena legislature party leader Ajay Choudhari met acting Speaker Narhari Zhirwal, asking him to take action against 12 MLAs who had joined the Shinde faction for violating party discipline.Shinde hit back via Twitter posts, saying “Who are you trying to scare? Even we know the law, and this whip is applicable for only the legislative assembly, not meetings held outside. In this regard, the Supreme Court has already given its verdict… You cannot scare us by demanding action against 12 MLAs by submitting a letter. We are the real Shiv Sainiks and we are the Shiv Sena of Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.”Shinde sent Zhirwal a letter stating that he had been appointed the Sena leader in the House and Bharat Gogawale the party Chief Whip.Earlier, Choudhari said, “I have submitted our petition to Zhirwal and we want action against them.” Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said, “We called for two meetings on June 22 and a whip was issued by Sunil Prabhu. These MLAs were given notices and asked why they were not present. Some gave explanations, maybe real or fake. Some did not give explanations. Hence, we asked for disqualification of 12 MLAs: Eknath Shinde, Tanaji Sawant, Prakash Surve, Balaji Kinikar, Anil Babar, Lata Sonawane, Yamini Jadhav, Sanjay Shirsat, Bharat Gogawale, Sandeepan Bhumre, Abdul Sattar and Mahesh Shinde. We will ask the Speaker to take action.”
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.
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.