With new chief whip, Thackeray, Shinde face-off reaches Lok Sabha
The internal battle between the two Shiv Sena factions led by Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, respectively, has now reached Parliament. On Wednesday, the Thackeray group appointed the party's new whip in Lok Sabha to avert a revolt by MPs. Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut notified Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla that Rajan Vichare will be the party's chief whip, replacing Bhavna Gawli.
- The Shiv Sena schism began last month with the rebellion of its MLAs led by Shinde.
- The revolt reduced the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition's government to a minority, and Thackeray resigned as the chief minister on June 29.
- Shinde was sworn in as Maharashtra's chief minister on June 30 with the support of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs.
According to NDTV, Thackeray is concerned about losing Shiv Sena MPs ahead of the presidential election on July 18. The party now has 19 Lok Sabha members and three Rajya Sabha members, with the Shinde group reportedly in contact with 12 to 14 of them. In light of this, the chief whip has been replaced since the MPs are required to obey his decision.
Rajan Vichare, the Shiv Sena's new chief whip in the Lok Sabha, is a Thane MP. Thane is considered Shinde's stronghold, and Vichare is close to him. In such a setting, the Thackeray faction's choice to designate him the chief whip is quite perplexing.
Shinde faction is holding the whip and leader of Shiv Sena's legislative party positions in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Sunil Prabhu of the Thackeray camp has been replaced as the chief whip by Bharat Gogawale of the Shinde camp. Similarly, Shinde's appointment as the new head of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party was approved by the newly appointed Speaker Rahul Narwekar.
In the Supreme Court, the Thackeray group has challenged the Assembly speaker's decision to appoint a new Shiv Sena chief whip. A hearing has been set for Monday (July 11). Meanwhile, the new chief whip Gogawale has given the speaker notice to terminate the membership of 16 Shiv Sena MLAs linked with the Thackeray faction. All of these legislators will likely be suspended.
If the Supreme Court upholds the speaker's decision, Shinde would take control of the Shiv Sena, leaving Thackeray utterly isolated inside the party that his father founded. However, this would be a violation of the anti-defection law, which states that a party can only save its membership by combining a group with another party, even if it has over two-thirds of the MLAs' support.