The Election Commission (EC) on Friday in an order said that the party name "Shiv Sena" and the symbol "Bow and Arrow" will be retained by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led faction.
The EC observed that the current constitution of the Shiv Sena on which former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray was placing reliance is undemocratic.
"While applying the 'Test of party Constitution', the Commission found that the party constitution on which the respondent (Uddhav Thackeray faction) was placing strong reliance is undemocratic," said the Commission in its 78-page order issued on Friday.
"The complete list of office bearers of various bodies was not provided to the Commission, whenever elections were held or appointments were made," said the Commission.
The EC observed that amendments to the constitution in 2018 had undone the act of introducing democratic norms in the 'Party Constitution of 1999', brought by the late Bal Thackeray at the insistence of the Election Commission.
The EC order also noted that the undemocratic norms of the original constitution of Shiv Sena, which was not accepted by the Commission in 1999 have been brought back in a surreptitious manner, further making the party akin to a fiefdom.
"The paradox of India being the world's largest democracy and its political field being occupied by some parties which are being treated as fiefdoms is disconnecting. For a truly functioning democracy, it is important that one of the key stakeholders, which is the political parties, are run in a democratic manner and this in turn can be ensured only if the constitution being adopted by them does not allow concentration of power in the hands of a few," said the Election Commission in its order.
The EC also said that the name of 'Balasahebanchi Shivsena' and the symbol of Two Swords and Shield, which was allotted to the petitioner by way of the interim order will henceforth be frozen with immediate effect.
Shiv Sena (UBT) to challenge EC decision on name-symbol in court
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena (UBT) said it would move the Delhi High Court to challenge the decision of the Election Commission (EC).
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut slammed the EC move, saying it made a mockery of truth and justice.
"... 40 people laid claim over Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sena and the EC approved it. The script was already written and ready," said Raut.
The Sena (UBT) leader said "the country is heading towards dictatorship" and "the traitor kept saying that the (EC) verdict will be in his favour. A miracle has happened! Keep fighting".
On the other hand, the BSS leaders including Shinde, Shambhuraj Desai and others welcomed the EC move, and said that they would now start working immediately under the new name and symbol.
"It's a victory for the ideals of Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe, all the elected representatives (MLAs and MPs) who are with me and lakhs of workers. It's the triumph of democracy and the EC decision has come on merits in our favour. Our government was formed based on the Constitution, majority support and the peoples' mandate," said Shinde.
The EC verdict was also hailed as 'historic' by the ruling ally state Bharatiya Janata Party President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, and called it 'Satyameva Jayate' (triumph of truth).
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that Shinde's party, which was following the ideals of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, has been given the name 'Shiv Sena' and 'Bow and Arrow' symbol.
Fadnavis said that they were hopeful of the verdict as the Election Commission has relied on its past decisions in similar cases, and hence, ruled in favour of Shinde in a free and fearless manner despite pressure from the other side.
Sena (UBT)'s spokesperson Sushma Andhare said that the party will give a legal challenge to the EC ruling and "the next battle will be fought in the courts".
She accused the government of deploying central probe agencies and misusing public offices, which led to the collapse of the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June 2022.
Leader of Opposition in Council Ambadas Danve said that Sena (UBT) President Uddhav Thackeray will address the media later on Friday night, and present views on the EC verdict.
Fadnavis added that now the real Shiv Sena, founded by Balasaheb Thackeray, has now come to Shinde who has been following his ideals and principles, and the Sena (UBT) was free to challenge the EC ruling in the high court.
Meanwhile, the ECI decision was greeted with cheers, slogans of "Shiv Sena Zindabad, Eknath Shinde Zindabad", bursting of fire-crackers, distributing sweets, displaying the 'Shiv Sena' name and 'Bow and Arrow' symbols, in the CM's home town Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad and other places in Maharashtra.