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Rahul Narwekar: Why Is Maharashtra Speaker In The Spotlight Amid Shiv Sena Row?

Looking at the Rahul Narwekar, Speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly's role in swaying the discourse surrounding the two sparring factions of the Shiv Sena with his verdict due today.

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Maharashtra Legislative Assembly speaker Rahul Narvekar
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The name of Rahul Narwekar, the speaker of the Maharastra Legislative Assembly, has been doing the rounds in major discussions recently in Maharashtra, and over the last couple of years as well- pushed into a light of controversy since he took over the post in July 2022, following the rebellion of Eknath Shinde and the subsequent split of the Shiv Sena. The final verdict from Narwekar's side on the disqualification petitions of the MLAs came today after a prolonged delay. Narwekar ruled that Eknath Shinde's faction in the Assembly was the real Shiv Sena and the camp's MLAs cannot be disqualified. He further added that Uddhav Thackeray had no power to remove Eknath Shinde and that the 1999 constitution of Shiv Sena, relied upon by Eknath Shinde, has been accepted in delivering the verdict.

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Rahul Narwekar is a man who has frequented different terrains when it comes to politics in Maharashtra. The son-in-law of NCP senior leader Ramraje Naik Nimbalker, Rahul, started his political career with a prominent stint at Shiv Sena where he formed a gifting proximity with Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray. He quit the party in 2014 on being denied a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections and joined the NCP before the Lok Sabha elections. Losing the Maval seat, he was later elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 2016 as a Governor's nominated member. His latest stint came with BJP in 2019 and won Colaba by a margin of 75000 votes.

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Narwekar took over the post of the Speaker on July 3, 2022, becoming the youngest person since Shivraj Patil to become the Speaker of a state, at the age of 44. However, the rebellion led by Eknath Shinde shone a controversial light upon the election. Both Uddhav Thackeray and Shinde accused each other of defying the party whip's call on the Speaker and the trust vote which took place. Following the Supreme Court's ruling of Shinde's faction as the official Shiv Sena, the responsibility of deciding on the fate of the disqualification petitions of the 34 MLAs from the two opposing factions had fallen on Narwekar.

A couple of deadlines has passed with SC demanding a verdict from Narwekar's end on the issue. The final deadline had been set on January 10 at 4 pm by the apex court. With Maharashtra Assembly elections approaching later this year, it will be interesting to see how the episode unfurls following the verdict - especially since Shiv Sena UBT's Uddhav Thackeray had taken to the SC objecting to a meeting between the Chief Minister and Narwekar just days prior to the verdict. "The judge (Narwekar) is going to meet the accused, what should we expect from that judge," asked Uddhav addressing a press meet at his residence.

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The sense of foul play has been consistently present in the discourse surrounding Narwekar's appointment and his influence backed by CM Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis. Responding to the allegations, Narwekar took a dig at Uddhav saying as an ex-CM he should probably have the idea of how things work between the Speaker and the Chief Minister. "If he still levels such allegations, then his motive is very clear. There is no rule that a speaker, while hearing disqualification pleas, cannot do any other work," said Narwekar responding to Uddhav's comments and the affidavit that was filed before the SC regarding the meeting. While the leaders in power were confident that the Sena-BJP and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP group were to retain power, Uddhav Thackeray and others had expressed their concern about the democratic ideals that are being so defiantly disregarded under the watch of the SC.

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Narwekar's role in the Legislative Assembly has also been wildly scrutinized since NCP President Jayant Patil's suspension from the Assembly. Patil had accused Narwekar of not allowing him to speak in the house. Patil was subsequently suspended after Narwekar called out Patil's behaviour as that of a 'shameless person'. The Congress had also moved a No-confidence Motion accusing Narwekar of being partisan and biased in the House. In addition to all of this, the tactful Narwekar's long-awaited and final verdict and role remains crucial, which will further affect the wider discourse ongoing since 2022 surrounding the sparring factions and their exacted influences. 

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