The Shiv Sena workers pledging support to CM Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Wednesday night. (Inset): Clockwise Top left- Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde, Assembly Dy Speaker Narhari Zirwal and CM Uddhav Thackeray. The Shiv Sena workers pledging support to CM Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Wednesday night. (Inset): Clockwise Top left- Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde, Assembly Dy Speaker Narhari Zirwal and CM Uddhav Thackeray.

BJP’s “Operation Lotus” slides Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi into minority; The Defection of Shiv Sena MLAs- Assembly Speaker Holds the Key

Written By: / Thursday, 23 June 2022 17:27

By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, June 23:

While the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government has been reduced to a minority due to BJP’s “Operation Lotus”, the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly holds the key to grant recognition to the rebel group led by Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde if the Special Session of the State legislature is held.
On Wednesday, Shinde forwarded a list of 34 MLAs to the Maharashtra Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal from Guwahati (Assam), where the breakaway is at present stationed. He also communicated that he has “appointed” MLA Bharat Ghogawale (Mahad, Raigad) as the whip of the Shiv Sena Legislature party (SLP). He also rejected the appointment of MLA Ajay Choudhari as the leader of the SLP made by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. 
In a tweet Shinde also termed the letter sent by Shiv Sena Whip MLA Sunil Prabhu directing Shambhuraje Desai and Mahesh Shinde, to attend the meeting of MLAs convened in Mumbai on Wednesday or face disciplinary action, as illegal.
On Wednesday, the breakaway group camping at Guwahati passed a resolution appointing Shinde as the leader of the SLP. In the resolution, the group mentioned that “there is enormous discontent amongst the cadre of the party viz. Shiv Sena for forming the government with NCP and Congress who are ideologically opposed to our party”. Shinde also said that in the last two and half years, the NCP and Congress flourished to the disadvantage of the Shiv Sena. Our group is for “Hindutva Forever” he said.  
Although the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray left the official bungalow “Varsha” located in South Mumbai and moved to his family residence at Matoshri at Bandra in North West Mumbai, saying that he was suffering from Covid-19, he did not resign.
In a FaceBook live on Wednesday evening, Thackeray said that he was receiving calls from some of the MLAs that they were forcibly taken to Guwahati. “I am prepared to resign not only from the post of the chief minister but also from the post of the party chief, provided that those who have revolted should come forward and tell him that they don’t trust him and as such I should resign. Even if they telephone me from Guwahati, I will be happy to resign. If the next chief minister is from the Shiv Sena, I will be too happy” he added. 
To substantiate Thackeray’s allegations that the MLAs were forcibly taken to Guwahati, the MLAs Nitin Deshmukh (Akola) escaped and returned, alleging a conspiracy on the part of the Bharatiya Janat Party and Gujarat authorities to abduct and harm him. Shinde spirited away the MLAs to Surat (Gujrat) and then to Guwahati and most of them wanted to return to Maharashtra, Deshmukh said. MLA Kailas Patil (Aurangabad) too escaped from the rebel camp on Tuesday.
However, a few more Shiv Sena MLAs left for Guwahati on Wednesday. Additionally, the Shiv Sena MP Bhavna Gawli (from Buldhana) wrote to Thackeray to toe the Shinde’s line and sever ties with the NCP and Congress to join hands with the BJP.
Shiv Sena to fight back
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that “ If we get the chance, we will prove our majority on the floor of the House, and the struggle has just begun”.
Now if Shinde joins BJP (or extends support as a separate group) with 40 odd MLAs, the strength of the BJP will be much more than the required strength of 145 in the 288 Maharashtra legislative assembly.    
Options
The BJP can demand a special session of the state legislative assembly and move a no-confidence motion against the MVA Government. Or approach the Governor demanding dissolution of the Assembly and imposition of the President’s rule, till such time fresh elections are held. 
Speaker’s role
If the Assembly session is convened, then the breakaway group will have to obtain recognition from the Speaker. In that case, the strength of the ruling, as well as the Opposition, will have to be assessed on the floor of the House. However, the real test lies in according the recognition to the breakaway group by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Narhari Zirwal (in absence of the Assembly Speaker). Whether the Shinde group will be recognized as “Shiv Sena Legislature Party” or will be recognized by some other name will be a crucial issue. 
The breakaway faction MLAs cannot be disqualified since they are well above the two-thirds majority (compared to Shiv Sena’s original strength of 55). Despite defections, the Shiv Sena will have 10 to 15 MLAs in the Assembly. Given the above, the decision of Zirwal will be very important.   
It may be recalled that a majority of the Congress MLAs had defected to the National Congress Party (NCP) after breaking away from the Congress on the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin in May 1999. The NCP bigwigs-Sharad Pawar, Tariaq Anwar, and late P A Sangma were expelled by the AICC on May 20, 1999. The group was granted recognition as the NCP legislature party in the Maharashtra legislature at that time. 
When the legislature is not in session, the disputes about the symbol and party name are considered outside issues and are dealt with by the Election Commission of India under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968. Besides, disputes related to the claim over the parties are dealt with as per the Registration of Political Parties Order, 2009 (Re-revised 2022).
Now Eknath Shinde seems to stake claim not only on the SLP but also on the entire Shiv Sena. However, given the massive protests across the state against the rebellion, he is unlikely to be successful in laying claim over the Shiv Sena.

About the Author

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]

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