Rajat Sharma


AKB30 The Maharashtra assembly Speaker’s ruling in the Shiv Sena MLAs’ disqualification case was more or less anticipated. The Speaker did not disqualify any MLA from both factions of Shiv Sena, but he held that the faction of Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was “the real Shiv Sena”. Speaker Rahul Narvekar dismissed all 34 disqualification petitions filed against 54 Sena MLAs – 40 from Shinde camp and 14 from Uddhav Thackeray camp. His ruling comes as a big setback for Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and a victory for Eknath Shinde. Uddhav faction had sought disqualification of 16 MLAs from Shinde camp. After this ruling, there is now no threat to Eknath Shinde government. The Speaker relied on three main points in his verdict : the Shiv Sena constitution, Shiv Sena party’s leadership structure and its legislative majority. The Speaker will now have to decide about the disqualification case of NCP MLAs, following split by faction led by Ajit Pawar. Reacting to the verdict, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray said, his party will move the Supreme Court against the Speaker’s ruling as the court’s guidelines were ignored. He said, the Speaker was supposed to decide about the issue of disqualification under anti-defection law, but not a single MLA from either side was disqualified. NCP chief Sharad Pawar hoped that the Speaker’s wording in the ruling could make a strong case for Uddhav Thackeray to approach the Supreme Court. Sharad Pawar said he was not surprised with the verdict because the Speaker had met the Chief Minister, who was a party to the dispute, two days ago. Pawar said, the Supreme Court had clearly said that the party structure is more important than the legislative wing, but the Speaker’s verdict contradicts this concept. Pawar said, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi consisting of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) will now go to the people on this issue. There were celebrations in Eknath Shinde’s camp. The chief minister said, the verdict “signals the end of dynasty politics, because a political party is not a family’s private property and the view taken by the party chief need not be the view of party workers”. Uddhav camp leaders alleged “matchfixing” between the Speaker and the chief minister. The question now is: how will this verdict affect the future course of Maharashtra politics and what will be the political future of Uddhav Thackeray? The Speaker had been hearing this disqualification case for the last one and a half years, and only after the Supreme Court announced a deadline that the Speaker gave his verdict. The verdict runs into 1,200 pages. His ruling more or less matches with the Election Commission’s order which had recognised Shinde faction as the real Shiv Sena. Speaker Rahul Narvekar said that the party constitution of Shiv Sena submitted by Uddhav camp cannot be considered as the real constitution, because it is not available on the Election Commission’s official website. Hence, he said, it cannot be accepted that Uddhav Thackeray, as party chief, had the power to remove Eknath Shinde from his post based on the 2018 Shiv Sena constitution. The Speaker said, Uddhav camp did not give any proof to establish that there was a meeting of Shiv Sena national executive where changes in the party constitution were made. The Speaker, therefore, considered the 1999 constitution as the real one and declared Shinde-led party as the real Shiv Sena. The Speaker’s verdict was on expected lines and there was no expectation that he would disqualify 16 MLAs from Shinde camp. Rahul Narvekar is a BJP leader and he has been elected on his party ticket to become Speaker. He has to contest election again, and since Shinde has formed his coalition government with BJP, there was no expectation about disqualification of Shinde faction’s 16 MLAs. The curiosity remained over what the Speaker will say to justify the membership of these MLAs who left the Shiv Sena. The arguments given by the Speaker are good and convincing, but given the present situation in Maharashtra politics, nobody is surprised over the Speaker’s verdict. Actually, it was Uddhav Thackeray who committed the first mistake. He and his party, in alliance with BJP, had contested the assembly elections and had won 56 seats. On the basis of this strength, Uddhav demanded that he be made the chief minister for the first two and a half years. This was a betrayal. The entire story starts from here. The second mistake was committed by Eknath Shinde. He had won the election under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray and the electorate had given votes to him and his colleagues in the name of Uddhav’s Shiv Sena. But Shinde and his MLAs went en bloc to Guwahati, stayed under BJP’s protection, and Shinde became the CM after allying with BJP. For Maharashtra, such a betrayal in politics is not new. In the past, Sharad Pawar, too, had betrayed his mentor Vasantdada Patil to become CM. Ajit Pawar betrayed his uncle Sharad Pawar to be sworn in as deputy chief minister. It is, therefore, difficult for the people of Maharashtra to decide who is a betrayer and who is a loyalist? There is this Hindi proverb – ‘Hamaam Mein Sab Nangey Hain’. In the rough and tumble of Maharashtra politics, there seems to be one single politician, Devendra Fadnavis, who did not betray anybody. The people of Maharashtra voted him to make him the chief minister. He got the chance to become CM twice, but on both occasions, he was not given justice. It is Devendra Fadnavis alone who can go to the people and tell them he has been a victim of injustice. The biggest injustice, however, was done to the people of Maharashtra. They elected an individual but got somebody else. The Speaker’s verdict is going to be challenged in Supreme Court and the final verdict will come from the people.

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