The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 23-06-2022 | 02:45 pm
As the Shiv Sena rebel group led by Eknath Shinde crossed the magic figure of 37 (it claimed to have got 40 of 55 by Thursday morning), it has set the ball rolling for the next course of action towards government formation in Maharashtra.The 37 number takes the rebel group past the two-third mark to avoid the anti-defection law.“We have crossed the first hurdle. Now, technicalities to assert our identity through formation of a party under Shinde’s leadership are underway. We are fighting to establish that the Eknath Shinde-led group is the real Sena,” a rebel MLA requesting anonymity said.If Shinde is able to hold on to the numbers, he can seek a separate group status. Whether this group wants to be recognised as the real Sena, or a new outfit or merge with any other party remains to be determined.A senior BJP leader requesting anonymity said the party would not impose any conditions on Shinde, should he come with them to form a new government. “It is for Eknath Shinde to decide whether he would like to remain a separate party or merge in the BJP,” the leader said.Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is counting on the rebellion being confined to just the MLAs now in Guwahati, and not swaying either the cadre or office-bearers. He believes this would ensure that it is he who will be seen as holding on to “the real Sena” and retain its symbol of bow and arrow. However, Uddhav’s transfer Wednesday night from the official residence to his own personal accommodation was a signal that he is reconciled to power passing out of his hands.Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “Those who have rebelled are not true Sainiks of Bal Thackeray. We are also in touch with some of these rebels. Once they come to Mumbai, facts will come out. Some went because of fear of investigation by Central agencies… When a floor test takes place, the real numbers will be known. The Shiv Sena is strong.”As for the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, members Congress and NCP seem dejected about any chance of their government surviving after the Sena split.The 18 MLAs who are still with Uddhav put the total MVA numbers as of Thursday morning at 115 – along with the Congress’s 44 and the NCP’s 53. That is 29 short of the half-way mark of 144 in the Assembly, whose strength is down to 287 after the death of a Sena MLA. While the MVA could have once hoped to rustle together that number from the smaller parties and Independents, that is now unlikely given how the winds are blowing.Already seven MLAs belonging to smaller parties or Independents have gravitated towards the Shinde group. They include two members of the Prahar Janashakti led by Bacchu Kadu.An indication of where these floating votes were headed came in the recent Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls where the BJP got additional 17 and 27 votes, respectively – logically from among them.The BJP is the single-largest party with 106 MLAs in the current House, and with Shinde’s claim of 40, it seems home and dry.
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.
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.”