The Indian Express | 6 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 12:45 am
CLAIMING THAT the BJP-led central government was “misusing central agencies” to harass members of other parties, “especially the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA)”, three Congress members approached a special court recently seeking protection from arrest for all members of the alliance. The special court has directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to file its reply on the application.The anticipatory bail application was moved on Saturday by Madhu V Holamagi, senior vice-chairman of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, and two other Congress members, Yusuf Patel and Ranjeet Dutta, seeking protection from arrest of all, including members of Parliament, members of the Legislative Assembly and members of the Legislative Council.“The applicant states that the situation prevailing in the country is so unfortunate that the Union government under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party is misusing central agencies to harass members of other parties, especially the components of MVA as they have, with malafide intention, ulterior motive to suppress the government of Maharashtra, which was formed consisting also of the Shiv Sena, as well as NCP,” states the application filed by Congress leaders. The application seeks to protect the interest of MVA members by ordering grant of bail and directions against arrest of any of the members.The court had, on Saturday, inquired as to whether a blanket prayer in favour of all can be considered without their power, vakalatnama and authority letters.The applicants told the court that these can be submitted on behalf of the MVA members. The court said that on failure to produce the authority letters to represent members of MVA, notices will be issued to each and every member on whether they have made such an application.The court had also directed the ED to file its reply on Tuesday but the hearing was adjourned.
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.”
The Supreme Court’s order on Monday, extending the time for Eknath Shinde and 15 other rebel MLAs in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly to file written response to the Deputy Speaker’s disqualification notice till July 12, was deemed as a victory by the rebel camp. On the other hand, the Shiv Sena also put up a brave front stating that the interim order had only postponed the inevitable disqualification of the rebel MLAs.“We have won this major battle as the court has given us a major relief and we have time to contemplate on how to take the next step, whether we have to come to Mumbai for floor test or not. We have given all the authority of decision to Shinde saheb who will decide on the further course of action,” rebel MLA Bharat Gogawale, the chief whip of the Shinde camp, said.When asked if there is any plan on joining hands with the BJP, Gogawale, said, “We have 51 MLAs and we have to go with someone to form an alliance. We cannot go with the Congress or the NCP and there is only one option, which is the BJP.”Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson of the Shinde camp, said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena will form the government in the state, adding that their leader will be Uddhav Thackeray and that the Congress and the NCP should walk out of the government “instead of asking Thackeray saheb to resign”.Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena Member of Parliament from South Mumbai, who has been spearheading the battle for disqualification for the MVA, however, called the interim order as “postponement of the inevitable disqualification”.“They have only got time…that doesn’t mean it is a setback to MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi). The process has just been postponed. Now we are in a wait-and-watch position and we will decide on our further course of action depending upon what they (the rebel camp) are doing,” Sawant said.
The Eknath Shinde-led rebel camp has launched a frontal attack on Shiv Sena Parliamentarian Sanjay Raut — the main strategy aide and lead architect of Uddhav Thackeray’s policy to align with the Congress-NCP, terming him as “the agent provocateur who is out to finish the Shiv Sena”. The attack by the rebels on Raut comes on a day when the latter has been served a notice by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to appear before the agency on Tuesday.“We belong to Balasaheb Thackeray. We Sainiks of the Shiv Sena who stepped out for a few days have been called garbage and pigs. Those who have been elected to the Rajya Sabha on our votes are the ones that are using this vitriolic language against us. They are now even baying for our blood,” Shiv Sena MP Deepak Kesarkar, who is the spokesperson of the rebel camp, said in a statement.Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday termed the rebel MLAs as “living corpses who would be sent to a mortuary for post-mortem” on their return from the Assam capital. Raut’s statement had received flak from the Opposition and the Shinde camp, which termed it as a “death threat” to the rebels.🚨 Limited Time Offer | Express Premium with ad-lite for just Rs 2/ day 👉🏽 Click here to subscribe 🚨On Monday, the rebel camp stated that since 2014, when the Sena and the BJP came together after a rift, Raut had been “spraying vitriol” on the BJP government at the Centre.“There was a deliberate attempt to create a division between the BJP and the Shiv Sena by constantly criticising Modi despite having representation in the central government and allying with the BJP in the Maharashtra government. We brought this issue to the notice of the party leadership from time to time. However, it was of no use. Every day extremely vulgar words would be used. Even the Congress and the NCP were not this harsh in their criticism in comparison to Raut and the words that he would use,” Kesarkar said.The letter stated that Raut was being given importance even though he had never contested any Assembly or Lok Sabha election. The rebels claimed that Raut was extremely close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar and was acting at his behest. The rebels also accused Raut of creating a rift between Sena MLAs and party chief, CM Uddhav Thackeray.“You can take the Shiv Sena away from the BJP but if you conspire to wean the Sena off Hindutva, we will not accept it. If the Sena is going to be run as per the wishes of Sanjay Raut, and MLAs like us who have been elected multiple times are pushed away, then what are we expected to do? Sanjay Raut is responsible for the widening gap between us and Udddhav ji. The NCP leaders have used Sanjay Raut’s shoulder to fire the gun against the Sena and weaken it,” Kesarkar said.Raut, 61, is a four-term Rajya Sabha MP. Raut, who started off his career as a journalist, was handpicked by Sena founder Bal Thackeray as the editor of Saamana on May 1, 1991 and was made a member of the Upper House in 2004. He has since been deemed to be part of the inner coterie that surrounds Uddhav Thackeray. His proximity to the Thackerays despite not having a political base of his own had left many Shiv Sena leaders disgruntled. Since the passing of Bal Thackeray, Raut is said to have become one of the most important political counsellors of Uddhav Thackeray. He is also deemed to be the “architect-in-chief” who convinced Uddhav to break bond with the BJP and join the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) — the unlikely triumvirate of the NCP, the Congress and the Shiv Sena.