In a significant but "please-all" verdict, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on Wednesday recognised the faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde as the "real" Shiv Sena, but declined to disqualify the MLAs of both groups, including the Shiv Sena-UBT led by ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray, and ensured the survival of the ruling MahaYuti government.
The Speaker, in his much-awaited verdict read out over more than 100 minutes, rejected the disqualification petitions filed by both the ruling Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena-UBT, and recognised the Shiv Sena’s Bharat Gogawale as the Chief Whip, on various grounds.
Accordingly, the threat of disqualification of all the 16 Shiv Sena MLAs, including Chief Minister Shinde, and the 14 MLAs of Shiv Sena-UBT was dispelled, removing any immediate threats to the survival of the state government.
While the ruling Shiv Sena welcomed the verdict with celebrations, distribution of sweets and ‘V’ signs calling it as the "triumph of truth", the opposition Shiv Sena-UBT termed it as a "murder of democracy and the Constitution" and vowed to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
In his detailed judgement on the issue, the Speaker held that the group led by Shinde was the real "Shiv Sena" as it commanded a majority in the legislature and also in the party’s National Executive.
Narwekar also rejected the changes in the leadership structure by Thackeray in 2018, saying they were not in conformity with the Shiv Sena Constitution of 1999, nor was there a record of these amendments with the Election Commission.
The Speaker further held that the then Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu ceased to reflect the will of the party to continue in the post, and said that the breakaway faction’s Gogawale was the validly-elected Chief Whip after the rival factions emerged on June 21, 2022.
The rulings by the Speaker in his much-awaited verdict came as a huge relief to Shinde but dealt a major blow to Thackeray, whose faction had contested the claims of the breakaway group.
With the disqualification petitions of both sides getting dismissed by the Speaker, Shinde is left with the original Shiv Sena, the validity of the Chief Whip, and all the 16 MLAs will not be disqualified, while Thackeray has lost the party founded by his father, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, but none of his 14 MLAs have been disqualified.
The Speaker has rejected several other claims and contentions and arguments of the Shiv Sena-UBT challenging the Shinde faction, and Thackeray termed it as "a plot, murder of democracy and contempt of the Supreme Court", especially after Narwekar met Shinde on Sunday, just three days before his expected verdict.
Thackeray said that now a new route has been shown to break and take away parties through the legislature route which is tantamount to a contempt of the apex court, and demanded that the Supreme Court should initiate suo moto proceedings against the Speaker who had violated all the directives of the apex court.
Reiterating that he had predicted the outcome of "match-fixing" on Tuesday itself, Thackeray reaffirmed that the Shiv Sena cannot be eliminated by such tactics, "the Shiv Sena can never belong to Shinde" and asserted that the legal battle will continue in the court.
He repeated his earlier warnings that democracy was in peril, and now a new question has arisen whether the Supreme Court will remain ‘supreme’ or will there be something else.
(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)