Maharashtra: Eknath Shinde faction 'real' Shiv Sena, rules speaker, refuses to disqualify Shiv Sena-UBT MLAs

The prospect of disqualification hanging over 16 MLAs, including Shinde, was rendered infructuous, rejecting the contention of the Shiv Sena-UBT

Maharashtra speaker Rahul Narwane (centre) with CM Eknath Shinde (right) and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis
Maharashtra speaker Rahul Narwane (centre) with CM Eknath Shinde (right) and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis
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IANS

In a major yet expected ruling, Maharashtra Assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar on Wednesday declared that the faction led by chief minister Eknath Shinde as the "real" Shiv Sena after the vertical split in the party on 21 June 2022.

Accordingly, the prospect of disqualification over all the 16 MLAs, including Shinde, was rendered infructuous, rejecting the contention of the Shiv Sena-UBT.

The speaker also held that the then chief whip Sunil Prabhu ceased to reflect the will of the party to continue in the post, as the new chief whip Bharat Gogawale was the validly elected chief whip after the rival faction emerged.

The speaker's much-awaited verdict no doubt came as a huge relief to chief minister Shinde and as expected to the Shiv Sena-UBT, led by ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray, who had contested the claims of the breakaway group.

Nonetheless, the ruling was strongly criticised by SS-UBT leaders including Aditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, and others, who described it as "on expected lines", as they had been predicting in the recent past.

Aditya Thackeray termed the ruling as a "blatant murder of the Constitution and democracy", and said the party would challenge it in the Supreme Court.

Raut said "this is a deep conspiracy to finish off the Shiv Sena founded by the late Balasaheb Thackeray", the Shiv Sena cannot be destroyed by the "Gujarati lobby", and vowed that the SS-UBT would continue the legal battle.

Calling it a "black day" for the country and Marathis, Raut also questioned the credentials of the speaker, the CM, and the chief whip, wondering how after 40 MLAs had defected, the entire party could be handed over to the rival faction.

The speaker has rejected several other claims and contentions made in the SS-UBT plea, challenging the Shinde faction, even as huge celebrations were launched by the ruling Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai and other parts of the state.

However, in a relief of sorts for Thackeray, Narwekar dismissed the Shiv Sena’s plea to disqualify the 13 MLAs of the Shiv Sena-UBT faction. Filed by Gogawale, the speaker found the plea to contain "major inconsistencies and discrepancies", and rejected his grounds to disqualify all MLAs of the Thackeray faction.

With this and the other aspects of the speakers’ much-anticipated verdict, Thackeray has for now lost the original Shiv Sena founded by his father, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, to CM Shinde.

However, in what is viewed as a consolation, his legislative flock of 13 MLAs — among them his son and ex-minister Aditya Thackeray — have not been disqualified and will continue until the remainder of their terms, before the Assembly elections due this year.

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