Eknath Shinde with Uddhav Thackeray. Facebook

Maharashtra legislative Assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar on Wednesday ruled in favour of the Eknath Shinde faction while announcing his verdict on the dispute between the two warring Shiv Sena groups.

In a big jolt to the UBT faction led by Uddhav Thackeray, the speaker proclaimed the Eknath Shinde group as the “real Shiv Sena political party”.

“Shinde faction was the real Shiv Sena political party when rival factions emerged on 21st June 2022. I find that the leadership structure of the Shiv Sena reflected in letter dated February 27, 2018, available on the website of the ECI, is a relevant leadership structure which has to be taken into account for the purpose of determining which faction is the real political party,” he said during his address to the assembly members.

“Also in my view, the 2018 leadership structure (submitted with ECI) was not as per the Shiv Sena Constitution. Shiv Sena party chief as per the party Constitution can not remove anyone from the party. So Uddhav Thackeray removed Eknath Shinde or any party leader from the party as per the party Constitution. So the removal of Eknath Shinde by Uddhav Thackeray in June 2022 is not accepted based on the Shiv Sena Constitution,” he added.

“UBT faction has not placed any material on record or even suggest that any meeting of the Rashtriya Karyakarini was called for where any decision about the real political party was resolved.”

The verdict was announced more than 18 months after the Shiv Sena suffered a vertical split, a political development that resulted in a change of guard in the state.

In June 2022, Shinde and several MLAs rebelled against the then-chief minister Thackeray, leading to a split in the Shiv Sena and fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which also comprised the NCP and the Congress.

Cross-petitions were filed by the Shinde and Thackeray factions, against each other’s legislators, before the speaker seeking action against each other under anti-defection laws. Of 56 MLAs of the undivided Shiv Sena, 40 are with Shinde.

The Supreme Court, in May last year, directed Maharashtra Speaker Narwekar to adjudicate on the pleas expeditiously. On 15 December, 2023, the Supreme Court had extended the deadline for Maharashtra speaker Narwekar to decide the disqualification petitions from 31 December to 10 January.

While extending the deadline, the Court had said the sanctity of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution should be maintained.

The 10th Schedule of the Constitution is designed to prevent defection of elected and nominated members of Parliament and state legislatures from political parties on whose ticket they win, and contains stringent provisions against it under which they can be disqualified.

The apex court had also asked the Maharashtra speaker to decide the NCP’s petition seeking disqualification of nine MLAs of the Ajit Pawar group by 31 January, 2024. In July last year, the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP also joined the Shinde-led government.

The Election Commission had given the ‘Shiv Sena’ name and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to the Shinde-led faction, while the one headed by Thackeray was called the Shiv Sena (UBT) with a flaming torch as its symbol.

Maharashtra Assembly polls are due in the second half of 2024.

With inputs from PTI

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