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Can Eknath Shinde group really get the original Shiv Sena symbol?

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Maharashtra’s political fight is now in the open with the Supreme Court all set to enter the scene. Both factions of the now divided Shiv Sena are in no mood to back out. And both are giving a strong fight and have put everything in stake to hold on to power. The political battle of Maharashtra has now reached Delhi via Assam. 

Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde and his MLAs have filed two petitions in the Supreme Court which are likely to be heard today. The petitions mainly challenge the appointment of Ajay Choudhari by removing Eknath Shinde as the Leader of the Legislature Party in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.

Read | Maharashtra crisis: What is the current situation and what happened so far

Another petition is related to the disqualification notices issued to 16 rebel MLAs by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Narhari Zirwal. There has also been a demand for the security of the families of the MLAs. The matter has been listed before the vacation bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala.

One petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by rebel Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde. The second petition has been filed on behalf of 15 MLAs led by MLA Bhagat Gogavale.

While former Solicitor General Harish Salve will appear on behalf of the Shinde faction, the Deputy Speaker will be represented by former Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi will present the arguments in the court on behalf of Shiv Sena.

What are the main demands in the petition?

1. The disqualification notice issued by the Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly Narhari Zirwal to Eknath Shinde and 15 other MLAs should be stayed.

2. He should be directed not to take any action on the disqualification notices of 16 MLAs till the decision on the application for removal of the Deputy Speaker is taken. The rebel group has demanded the removal of Narhari Zirwal.

3. The decision of the Deputy Speaker should be rejected, in which he has recognised Ajay Choudhari as the leader of the legislature party in the Assembly by replacing Eknath Shinde.

4. The Central Government and the DGP of Maharashtra should be directed to provide security to the families of the rebel MLAs.

Grounds on which disqualification notice challenged

1. The disqualification petition is not maintainable as Shiv Sena has majority of MLAs in support of Eknath Shinde faction and they have majority. Moreover, those MLAs have not given up their membership.

2. The notice is also not maintainable because it challenges the activities of the majority legislators. These MLAs are working on the instructions of the Chief Whip and the party leader made by the majority.

3. The way the Deputy Speaker is working, it is clear that he is in connivance with the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and is issuing notices at the behest of them.

4. The Deputy Speaker has given only 48 hours to the MLAs to reply on the disqualification notice, whereas they should have given 7 days. This is against the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and disqualification rules.

 

5. The Deputy Speaker himself is facing a no-confidence motion, so he himself cannot decide on the disqualification issue of the MLAs. 

Which faction of Shiv Sena gets to keep the party symbol?

Mere numbers on side does not ensure that the Eknath Shinde faction gets to keep the party symbol bow and arrow or the party name. If the Shiv Sena were to split down the middle with a substantial number of MLAs supporting Eknath Shinde, the new faction would not immediately be recognised as a separate party.

The anti-defection law protects the rebel legislators as long as they merge with another party.

If the Sena splits, then which faction represents the ‘real Shiv Sena’ will depend not just on maximum legislators on which side. It will also depend on other lawmakers including Members of Parliament and office-bearing members of the party.

The onus is on the Election Commission to decide which of the factions is the original party and therefore has ownership of the party symbol. Election Commission takes the decision by examining precedents and which way maximum lawmakers and office bearers leaned in the past.

Both factions will be allowed to present their side before the Election Commission, and if either is dissatisfied, they can approach the Supreme Court.

The Shiv Sainiks’ opinion will also matter. A huge credit goes to these party workers due to whom Shiv Sena rose to be a regional power. Shiv Sena has the control over the civic body and several unions that represent Mumbai’s social, cultural and economic life. And all thanks to these Shiv Sainiks.

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