'Prove majority': EC tells Thackeray, Shinde over Sena ownership battle
The power struggle for control of the Shiv Sena between Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde has entered a new phase in which both will have to provide documentary evidence to prove who would head the party. The Election Commission (EC) has requested that both parties submit the documentation by August 8, following which the constitutional body will hold a hearing.
- With Shinde already forming the government in Maharashtra, the conflict has now shifted to seizing control of the Shiv Sena, the organization that Thackeray's father, Bal Thackeray, had founded.
- Shinde was sworn in as Maharashtra's CM on June 30 with the support of 40 Sena MLAs and the BJP.
- With 106 MLAs, the BJP is currently the single-largest party in the 287-member Maharashtra Assembly.
The two factions will also be required to issue written statements outlining their positions on the party's conflict, which arose after Shinde and almost 40 MLAs rebelled last month and created a new government with the assistance of the BJP. In the new arrangement, the BJP's ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis was appointed as Shinde's deputy. The Shinde camp claims to be the real "Hindutva" Sena.
"It's evident that there is a split in the Shiv Sena, one group of which is being led by Eknath Shinde and the other group is being led by Uddhav Thackeray," the EC reportedly stated in the notice sent to the two camps. "Both...groups claim to be the real Shiv Sena with their leader being the alleged president of Shiv Sena party," it explained.
"In order to place both the rival groups on an even keel and to protect their rights and interests, and going by the past precedence, the commission has directed that the documents submitted by the rival groups be exchanged and reply/written submissions be invited from the two groups," the EC stated. It will reportedly conduct a "substantive hearing" after receiving documented evidence and statements.
Team Shinde claimed in a letter to the EC that it has the support of 40 out of 55 MLAs and 12 out of 18 Lok Sabha MPs. The Shinde camp had requested that Thackeray's faction be disqualified by the Maharashtra Assembly speaker. On July 11, however, the Supreme Court directed Speaker Rahul Narwekar not to move with the petition demanding Team Thackeray's disqualification.
The Shinde camp asserts that their Sena opponents must be removed for disobeying the party whip during last month's trust vote and speaker's election, while Thackeray's camp disputes the legitimacy of the very trust vote. Both have been invited to frame concerns for consideration by a larger bench of the Supreme Court by Wednesday (July 27). The case will be heard on August 1.