Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Monday won the floor test in the Maharashtra legislative assembly. He polled 164 votes, while 99 members voted against him.
It was expected that Shinde would win the floor test as numbers were stacked in his favour. As many as 50 MLAs were supporting Shinde, including 39 from Shiv Sena. He also had support of 106 MLAs of BJP, taking him beyond the majority mark of 144.
After the death of a Shiv Sena MLA recently, the current strength of the Assembly is reduced to 287, thus the majority mark is 144.
Prior to the floor test, one more Sena MLA from the Uddhav Thackeray's camp joined Shinde's faction, taking its tally to 40. The MLA who switched over was Santosh Bangar, who represents Kalamnuri assembly seat.
Earlier, in a jolt to Uddhav, Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar on late Sunday night removed Ajay Chaudhary as Shiv Sena's legislature party leader and reinstated Shinde to the post. Narvekar also recognised the appointment of Bharat Gogawale from the Shinde camp as the chief whip of the Sena, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Uddhav faction.
In a statement late Sunday night, Narvekar said the Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat had received a letter from the Shinde-led group on June 22 objecting to his removal by Uddhav as the group leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party.
After discussing the legalities of the matter, the Speaker has rejected the appointment of Sena MLA Chaudhary as the group leader of the legislative unit of the party, a letter by Narvekar said.
The development comes as a major setback to the Thackeray faction comprising 16 MLAs who will be bound by the whip to be issued by Gogawale for the trust vote. If these 16 MLAs refuse to follow the whip, they face disqualification.
Reacting to the development, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said his party will challenge this "unconstitutional" decision in court.
He said, "Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha PDT Acharya has given directives that the party leader [chief] has the right to appoint the group leader of the legislative unit of that party. How can you say that [Eknath Shinde] is the [legislative] party leader?
"We will challenge this decision in court. This is highly unfortunate. The decision is taken on Sunday late night which speaks volumes about how it must have been taken."
Sawant further alleged that the decision amounts to trampling the Constitution and democratic norms.
He added, "The BJP is marching towards autocracy."
Ousted Shiv Sena group leader Chaudhary said the new Speaker did not even conduct any hearing over the objections of both sides.
He said, "When my name was proposed for the Shiv Sena group leader's post, it was signed by Shiv Sena MLAs Dada Bhuse and Sanjay Rathod. They both later joined the Shinde camp. How can the Speaker ignore these facts? When my appointment was recognised by acting speaker Narhari Zirwal, how come the newly-appointed Speaker Rahul Narvekar can intervene?"
On June 21, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had said that Shinde had been removed as the party's group leader in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. He told reporters at the time that Shinde had been replaced with Choudhury.
A day after Raut's statement, Shinde from Guwahati claimed that 34 Sena MLAs supporting him had passed a resolution reinstating himself as the leader of the Shiv Sena legislative party. The resolution passed by Sena rebels also named Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale as the new chief whip of the party and removed incumbent Sunil Prabhu from the post.
(With PTI inputs)