Uddhav Thackeray takes on the Election Commission in town hall

Demands return of every last rupee spent by Shiv Sainiks to file affidavits before it

Uddhav Thackeray addressing the Janata Nyayalaya (photo: @ShivSenaUBT_/X)
Uddhav Thackeray addressing the Janata Nyayalaya (photo: @ShivSenaUBT_/X)

Sujata Anandan

As the saying goes, “If Mohammed will not come to the mountain, the mountain will go to Mohammed.”

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray enacted his own version of this on Tuesday by going out to seize justice when justice did not come to him through regular channels and Constitutional institutions.

In the Town Hall that he billed as a Janata Nyayalaya, Thackeray presented his case through erudite Supreme Court lawyers Asim Sarode and Rohit Sharma, both of who demolished both the Election Commission (EC) and Maharashtra speaker Rahul Narwekar's verdict on the legitimacy of Thackeray's party.

In a meeting that lasted two-and-a-half hours, Thackeray spoke for only 10 minutes and took several questions from the gathering. But those 10 minutes were enough to put both the EC and Eknath Shinde's faction of the Shiv Sena in the dock. As MLA and advocate Anil Parab took the audience through its paces over the documents submitted to the EC with visual evidence, Thackeray left it to the people to decide whether the EC had been just and fair.

The point made was, if the EC had no record of the Shiv Sena constitution after 1999, why was the party not derecognised when it failed to file any party documents after that year? If the EC really did not possess the amended constitution of 2018 — Parab exhibited on video a receipt by the EC for the same — then why did it accept the AB forms of Shiv Sena candidates for the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections in 2019 with Thackeray’s signature on them? In that case, should not the EC be held accountable for misleading the world?

But Thackeray then took the battle to another level, stating that his party had submitted more than 19 lakh affidavits to the EC on stamp papers worth Rs 100 each that avowed they were legitimate members of the Shiv Sena. ”You know what happened then?”

Stunned by the sheer volume of affidavits, the EC, which was a ”servant” of the current regime, then sent officials to every home in every taluka and village to verify if the signatory was an actual person and had really signed the affidavit, Thackeray said.

“Not one affidavit was fake and they found nothing to accuse us of forgery. My Shiv Sainiks, some of them verry poor, could ill afford even that 100 rupees. Yet they spent that money for the party. So since the EC has not taken those affidavits into consideration, I think they ordered a futile exercise and were just wasting our time and effort. So now I demand that the EC reimburse all the 19 lakh Shiv Sainiks every last paisa that they spent on filing the affidavits, including buying the Rs 100 stamp paper.”

While that is unlikely to happen, this does give the Shiv Sena (UBT) a handle to put the EC in the dock over its unfairness to all political parties bar the BJP. That the party will continue to keep the heat on the EC was obvious from what Sarode said at the Town Hall — the EC under TN Seshan and other election commissioners was an exemplary body, and an autonomous one. “We never questioned its decisions then, relied on it for fair play, and got justice.”

Since 2014, however, the EC has been a tool in the hands of a regime that is out to murder democracy, he said. “The Constitution is a political document and ‘We, The People’ for whom it is meant are thus all necessarily expected to be political. So we must ask questions of every institution that violates the Constitution. And we will ask them of the EC as well as the courts,“ he said.

After the speaker’s decision in the case of the validity of the defecting legislators, Shinde group whip Bharat Gogawale has petitioned Bombay High Court against the speaker for not disqualifying Thackeray’s legislators.

Sarode pointed to the irony that even the ruling party believes speaker Narvekar did not hold up the law which was meant to decide who to disqualify, not to validate their membership.

“We are already in the Supreme Court against the Speaker’s decision. So petitioning the high court is highly frivolous. I suggest the high court turn down the petition and slap a heavy fine on such litigants for wasting its time.”

Bombay High Court has, however, posted the first hearing for 8 February.

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