INDIA. Mumbai: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has directed the Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray and leader of the breakaway faction CM Eknath Shinde to prove a majority with documentary evidence, in support of their claim over the party by August 08.
The EC has asked the Thackeray and Shinde factions to submit documents by 1 pm on August 08, in support of their claims on the election symbol of the political outfit, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Marathi daily “Saamana” stated in its issue dated July 23. The EC has asked both sides to submit documents, including letters of support from the legislative and organisational wings of the party and the written statements of the rival factions.
The breakaway Shinde faction approached ECI recently and staked claim over the party symbol of a bow-and-arrow. In turn, the Shiv Sena in a letter to the ECI pointed out that the Shinde faction claimed to be the authentic Shiv Sena and the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla quickly granted recognition to MP Rahul Shewale as a leader in the Lok Sabha. Similarly, BJP MLA Rahul Narvekar was elected the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly with support from the BJP and the Shiv Sena rebels.
The Shiv Sena pointed out that it had written to the Lok Sabha Speaker on July 06, about the change of the floor leader and had requested that in case of any other claim over leadership, the party should be consulted. The same request was again made on July 18 and the matter was followed up on July 19 by calling personally on the speaker, Shiv Sena leaders.
As against this, the break way faction led by Shinde submitted a letter to Birla claiming the post of the leader of the Parliamentary Party on July 19. Surprisingly Speaker Om Birla had already issued a letter on July 18 declaring Rahul Shewale as a group leader. This was nothing but a pre-emptive action, Shiv Sena MP and original Group leader Vinayak Raut said adding that the party will take this matter to the Supreme Court (SC).
The claim over the party symbol assumes significance since the SC on Wednesday, July 20 directed the Maharashtra State Election Commission to notify elections to local bodies within two weeks. The SC gave these guidelines while approving the recommendations of the Banthia Commission on OBC reservations.
Similarly while hearing a bunch of petitions related to disqualification of MLAs, the SC on July 20 had said that the petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and its rebel MLAs, raised constitutional issues including split, the merger of a political party, defection, and disqualification which may require consideration by a larger bench.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari, and Hima Kohli, also issued notices on petitions filed by the Uddhav Thackeray group and asked the other side to file responses and issues by July 27 for consideration by a larger bench and fixed them for hearing on August 01.
The requirement made in line with Paragraph 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 assumes significance since the elections are due in several civic bodies in Maharashtra, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which would indicate which Sena faction gets the popular support.
Since the EC is expected to check the strength of both factions in the legislative wing and the strength of the organization, the Shiv Sena has collected affidavits swearing allegiance to the original Shiv Sena from the party workers in large numbers. All these affidavits will be submitted to the EC, the Sena leaders said.
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