“Unconstitutional”: Team Thackeray’s Charge Against Bid To Split Sena In Lok Sabha Too

Arvind Sawant is one of the MPs still with Uddhav Thackeray.

New Delhi:

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, still firmly in a stunted Team Thackeray, today said the MPs who switch to the rival faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will be “violating the Constitution”.

Of the 19 Lok Sabha members elected on Shiv Sena’s bow-and-arrow symbol, 12 may soon form a separate group — a situation not very different from that in the state assembly, where Uddhav Thackeray’s government was dislodged by a mutiny within the Sena last month.

Mr Sawant acknowledged the rebels’ strength that may help skirt the anti-defection law — “about two-third MPs” — but said Team Thackeray has the “moral and legal position” in its favour. “These MPs have acted in a manner that’s unconstitutional and unethical,” he told NDTV.

“Even if they have the required strength as per law… Yes, they will not be disqualified; but they do not become the party itself. The rules are that they have to merge with another party if they want to continue as members,” he stressed, “This is why what has happened in Maharashtra assembly, too, is wrong.”

He said the Centre’s ruling BJP, which backed Eknath Shinde, is holding the strings: “Everyone knows why these people are leaving us. There’s a threat of the Enforcement Directorate (central anti-corruption agency). There are lucrative offers. They are doing everything.” 

Pro-Shinde MPs have already written to Speaker Om Birla to appoint Mumbai South-Central MP Rahul Shewale as the Sena leader in the House. Mr Shewale has said the bid is not to split the party but “only to elect a new leader”.

This group may also move to appoint a Chief Whip, that is, the leader authorised to issue binding directions to party MPs. Yavatmal MP Bhavana Gawli is likely to take the job, which she technically holds already, though Uddhav Thackeray — who remains the party boss officially — had announced to remove her. The Speaker hasn’t yet okayed that removal. So, for Ms Gawli to be Chief Whip, nothing may even have to change on paper. 

As the math stands now, the Shinde faction dominates the party founded by Uddhav Thackeray’s father, Bal Thackeray. Most of the MLAs are already with Eknath Shinde, and now he is moving towards taking the MPs away. As to who’s the real Shiv Sena, that’s the nub of multiple legal battles. Breaking away the majority of MLAs and MPs gives the Shinde camp a leg-up inside legislative Houses. But it will have to gather support within the party units, too, before it can walk away the bow and arrow. 

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