BJP's Rahul Narwekar elected Maharashtra Assembly Speaker, defeats Sena's Salvi
Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Rahul Narwekar was elected as the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker on Sunday with 164 votes. His opponent, Shiv Sena legislator Rajan Salvi, received 107 votes. The two Sena factions—one led by Eknath Shinde and the other led by Uddhav Thackeray—earlier issued whips to MLAs to vote for their respective candidates. This comes a day before the crucial floor test on Monday.
- The election for Assembly speaker is critical in light of the state's recent turn of events.
- Legal experts predict the new speaker may decide to drop the disqualification charges against 16 rebel MLAs, including the recently sworn-in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
- Last month, Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal issued them disqualification notices as the Speaker's post has been vacant since February 2021.
Experts predict that if the new speaker recognizes the Shinde faction as the "real" Shiv Sena, there will be no need for the group to combine with another political party. Shinde has asserted that, with a 2/3rd majority, he is the Sena's legislative party leader and his faction constitutes the "real" Sena. Meanwhile, Thackeray removed Shinde as party leader for "anti-party activities" on Friday.
Further, the Congress party has also questioned how Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari could permit the speaker's election now if he had previously refused to do so when the Shiv Sena-led coalition was in power, The Indian Express reported.
In the Assembly on Monday, the Shinde government will have to prove its numerical strength. Shinde and 50 MLAs, including 39 Sena rebels, landed in Mumbai last night after returning from Goa. The conflict has now shifted to seizing control of the Shiv Sena, the organization Thackeray's father Bal Thackeray had founded, after the Shinde camp used the BJP's assistance to form the government.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MLA Suresh Prabhu petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the rebel MLAs who were served disqualification notices. Prabu urged the SC to "restrain" them from "entering" the Assembly or "participating in any proceeding relating to the House till the final adjudication of the disqualification." The court will hear the petition on July 11, along with other pending petitions from both sides.
Earlier, the Supreme Court extended the rebels' deadline to respond to the disqualification notices until July 12. The Shinde faction had argued that the Deputy Speaker can't disqualify them because a no-confidence motion is pending against him. To recall, Thackeray resigned as the CM on Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused to stay Governor Koshyari's order for a no-trust vote in the Assembly.
With 106 MLAs, BJP is currently the single largest party in the 287-member Assembly. It expects its tally to rise to 123, including 17 MLAs from minor parties and independents. With the Shinde faction's 50 MLAs, comprising 39 Sena rebels, the total would rise to 173—well beyond the halfway point. "We're confident of winning...Speaker's election and the trust vote," a BJP functionary earlier stated.