NEW DELHI: The ugly battle for the control of Shiv Sena – the ruling party of Maharashtra – has now reached the Supreme Court, with rebel MLA Eknath Shine now disputing CM Uddhav Thackeray’s move to disqualify him and 15 of his rebel companions inside the rooms of the apex court.
The matter has been scheduled to be heard on Monday by the vacation bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala.
In his petition, a copy of which is with The New Indian, the Eknath Shinde camp has challenged the grounds for disqualification.
“That the seat of the honourable speaker is vacant since Nana Patole resigned from office in February 2021. Thus, there is no authority who can adjudicate upon the disqualification petition,” the petition stated.
Shinde has also said he, along with 34 rebel MLAs (including independent legislators) has moved a motion seeking the removal of the deputy speaker Narahari Zirwal while also questioning the appointment of Ajay Choudhari as the Shiv Sena Legislature Party leader, saying that the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction is barely in a minority.
“It is submitted that the said order (on any appointment or order) by Uddhav Thackeray is completely unlawful and illegal as admittedly the said order was passed by the Thackeray on the basis of a purported resolution of the same date, passed by a minority faction of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party.
Throughout his petition, Shinde has referred to Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in minority. He even discloses the strength of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs as 38.
“Furthermore, it is common knowledge that the current government in the state of Maharashtra, led by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance has lost the majority in the house as 38 of the members of the Shiv Sena legislature party have withdrawn their support thus bringing it below the majority in the house,” the petition has said.
Shinde also says that the June 21 letter on appointments of Choudhry and chief whip Sunil Prabhu is backdated.
Besides, the petition also claims Uddhav Thackery had the support of only 24 MLAs out of 55 Shiv Sena MLAs, who “attended an unauthorised meeting and passed the resolution to remove Shinde as the leader of the legislature party and appointing Choudhary as the group leader”. He further said, that even those 24 had withdrawn their consent to the said resolution and have extended support and reaffirmed the Petitioner (Shinde) as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party.
The petition has invoked article 32 of the Constitution of India, calling “the arbitrary and illegal exercise of provisions of Members of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of Defection) Rules, 1986 (hereinafter referred as “MLA Defection Rules”).
The rebels have asked the top court to order the deputy speaker not to take any action on the disqualification plea till the matter of his removal is decided.
They have also asked the court to direct the Maharashtra government to provide security to their families.
The Shiv Sena filed appeals for disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs earlier this week with the Deputy Speaker. The Shinde camp claimed the move was illegal since disqualification can happen only for matters in the assembly and not for skipping a party meeting.
The Sena is also planning other actions against the rebel ministers. Sources said Eknath Shinde, Gulabrao Patil and Dada Bhuse are likely to lose their portfolios. Abdul Sattar and Shamburaje Desai are also likely to face action.
This afternoon, Uday Sawant became the ninth Maharashtra minister to join the rebel camp. The rebels claim they have a two-thirds majority, which would enable them to split the party in the assembly without invoking the disqualification laws.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, a close aide of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, lashed out at the rebels today, saying, “The one who betrays Balasaheb is finished… From now on, we have to decide who to trust”.
Sena sources claimed that at least 20 MLAs camping with Shinde are in touch with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Some of them are against a merger with the BJP.
Despite being reduced to a minority, the Team Thackeray has also written to the Election Commission against the Shinde faction’s move to call themselves “Shiv Sena Balasaheb Thackeray” and stake claim for the party symbol.