The Shiv Sena rebel faction led by Eknath Shinde moved two special leave petitions in the Supreme Court of India on Sunday challenging the notices issued to them. Maharashtra state Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal had on Saturday began the process of disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs and issued notices to them including their leader Shinde. A day before the Udhav Thackeray-led faction had moved a petition with the office of the Deputy Speaker Zirwal to disqualify 16 rebel MLAs as the rebel faction, hardening their stance, failed to attend a Shiv Sena Legislature Party meeting held in Mumbai. The apex court is likely to hear the petitions on Monday
In their petition, the rebel faction has also challenged Ajay Choudhary’s appointment as Legislative Party Leader in the House, which was promptly approved by Zirwal. Shinde was the Legislative Party Leader before he staged the rebellion, plunging the MVA government headed by Udhav Thackeray into an existential crisis. The rebel MLA and former minister had sought reaffirmation of his appointment as the
Legislative Party Leader by moving a resolution signed by 37 MLAs to the Deputy Speaker.
Citing the provisions of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly [Disqualification on Ground of Defection] Rules, 1986, the summons issued to the rebel MLAs had sought a written reply by June 27 till 5:30 p.m.
The pleas have been filed separately by Shinde and MLA Bharat Gogawale, which have sought to challenge the disqualification notices but also the powers of the Deputy Speaker to appoint Choudhary as Legislative Party Leader and Sunil Prabhu as Chief Whip in the legislature. The Shinde camps alleges that despite knowing the fact that more than two-thirds of the Shiv Sena Legislative Party were on their side the Deputy Speaker arbitrarily appointed Choudhary as Legislative Party Leader in the House.
Amid the deepening political crisis, and escalating power tussle, leaders and workers both factions on Sunday hit streets across the state, even as Maharashtra Cabinet Minister for Higher and Technical Education Uday Samant joined the Shinde faction in Guwahati.
Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena leader and two-time member of Parliament Arvind Sawant told the media that the fight was no longer a political but a legal one. “What is happening in Maharashtra is no longer a political fight. The fight is legal now. As you all know, disqualification notices have been issued to 16 rebel MLAs.”
Sawant was accompanied by Shiv Sena senior counsel Devdutta Kamat. Briefing the legal recourse that the party has now taken, the Supreme Court lawyer said, ““I’m here to brief on our legal position, what is happening and what is the status of those proceedings (we are going for). First of all, we have started proceedings against 16 rebel MLAs. There are many judgments which say that legislators who work against a party outside the House can be disqualified.”
Giving the example of former Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Yadav, Kamat told the reporters how veteran JDU leader was disqualified from the Upper House of Parliament in December 2017 for attending a rally held by opposition parties in Patna. “In that case, Sharad Yadav had attended only a meeting. But in the present case, the way they have rallied against the government after going outside Maharashtra, you can understand that it is a clear case of violation. Many in the media are saying that they (the rebels) have two-thirds numbers on their side. But the law says that you either merge your rebel MLAs with some other party or you will be disqualified,” Kamat further said. “They have so far not done any merger. They should know that till their merger happens they cannot avoid disqualification. Further it is being said that the Deputy Speaker of the House does not have any power. It is patently wrong. In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker has same rights as those of the Speaker,” he added.
It was evident from day’s developments that Shiv Sena as a party is witnessing a division in its rank and file in the state, according to the allegiance of the local units. One faction is supporting Thackeray, while the other faction is rooting for the rebel faction. Supporters of both factions are taking to the streets across all districts in the state.
As the day progressed supporters of Shinde burnt effigies of Shiv Sena senior leader and spokesperson Sanjay Raut in Thane, which is Shinde’s stronghold. They shouted slogans against Raut even calling him names. Supporters of the rebel faction, as in Thane, took out a huge rally in Patan constituency of Satara on Sunday in response to the rallies and public meetings the faction led by Thackeray is holding to muster support, while denouncing Shinde for betraying Balasaheb Thackeray.
Shiv Sainiks supporting the beleaguered Maharashtra Chief Minister on Monday took out a huge rally in Nashik against rebel leader Shinde. Hundreds of Shiv Sainiks shouted anti-Shinde slogans while holding the saffron flag in their hands. Similar protests against Shindhe were staged in Vidharbh, Marathwada and Aurangabad.
Youth wing of the Shiv Sena hit the streets in Beed in support of the rebel leader Tanaji Sawant vandalizing and damaging several vehicles. Thackeray supporters had vandalized Sawant’s office in Balaji area in Katraj on Saturday after which Sawant had tweeted that once the political issue was settled they would be given a reply in the same language.