Thackeray claims original Sena with him; Shinde camp denies defection
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Shiv Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to redraft its response to petitions filed by the opposing Uddhav Thackeray group following the recent political turmoil in Maharashtra. A bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana heard petitions from the Shiv Sena and its dissident MLAs on various constitutional concerns including defections and disqualification.
- With Sena rebel Eknath Shinde forming the government in Maharashtra, the conflict has now shifted to seizing control of the party, the organization that Thackeray's father—Bal Thackeray—had founded.
- To recall, 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 the single-largest party in the 287-member Maharashtra Assembly.
Supreme Court today witnessed a high-voltage argument by the two groups who sent top lawyers to prove their claims on the party. Team Thackeray accused the opposing side of "spinning a false narrative" to legitimize their anti-party stance. The Shinde camp, on the other hand, said that intra-party disagreement is not grounds for defection.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal while advocating for the Uddhav Thackeray faction argued that the MLAs who joined the Shinde camp can only avoid being disqualified under the tenth schedule of the Constitution by uniting the breakaway group with another party. "They have no other defense available," Sibal told the SC bench, also comprising justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli.
"Once you have been elected it does not mean the umbilical cord with the political party is severed and that you have nothing to do with your political party," Sibal said referring to rebel MLAs.
The counsel for the Shinde faction, senior advocate attorney Harish Salve stated that leaders cannot use the anti-defection statute as a tool to lock their members. Salve claimed that it is not true that the MLAs had freely renounced their affiliation with the political party, citing factual details. "It's not a case of defection. Today it is the case of intra-party rebellion," said Salve.
Following the hearing of the submissions, the bench directed Salve to redraft the legal questions. The CJI postponed the case to tomorrow in order to settle the legal difficulties involved.
Chaos in the Sena last month caused a split, and the EC will now decide which camp is the "real Shiv Sena" and has the right to use the party symbol. The Shinde faction claims to have the support of 40/50 Sena MLAs and 12/18 Lok Sabha MPs. The EC has asked both groups to submit documents to prove their majority by August 8.
The Shinde camp earlier asserted 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 had been invited to frame concerns for consideration by a larger bench of the Supreme Court by July 27.