The high-decibel political drama following the hearing of the dispute over the Shiv Sena symbol is underway in Maharashtra with the Election Commission (EC) scheduled to take a decision soon.
However, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday said that the EC should not decide on the party’s poll symbol till the Supreme Court gives its judgment on the disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs from the camp led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The Supreme Court has postponed the hearing on the power struggle till February.
Early January, The Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena on cited a 1971 Supreme Court verdict, which gave recognition to a group led by former prime minister Indira Gandhi as the original Congress, before the Election Commission (EC) as it staked claim to the outfit founded by Balasaheb Thackeray.
While the power struggle over Shiv Sena’s symbol runs from the Election Commission to the Supreme Court, we look at the development of the political tiff from last year.
Political control on the organisation
On January 10, a hearing was held in the EC on this matter and Eknath Shinde's lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani argued that the way in which Shiv Sena's constitution was changed in 2018 was illegal.
On Tuesday, the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction told the poll body in New Delhi that the arguments placed by the Shinde camp (Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena) on the flaws in the party’s amended constitution were full of contradictions.
The Thackeray faction also sought more time from the poll panel to complete its arguments in a case related to the control of the organisation, following which the next hearing was fixed for January 20. Representing Thackeray, Kapil Sibal requested the commission to wait for the Supreme Court to give its verdict on the case.
The Shinde faction also argued that the Supreme Court is hearing the case of disqualification, which is different from the symbol war. Both factions contended that they would carry forward the legacy of party founder Balasaheb Thackeray.
According to a report by India Today, the 'real Shiv Sena' will have to have majority support from all office-bearers in the party, state legislators, and Members of Parliament. Just having a large number of MLAs on one's side is not enough for it to be recognized as the party.
A dispute over the symbol
Last year, in July, senior advocate N K Kaul, appearing for the Shinde faction, told an SC bench that the two factions are having two completely different issues. “One concern the Speaker and the Lordships are dealing with is all the issues of disqualification, floor test etc. The Election Commission is dealing with the intra-party thing as to who represents the party, the symbol and it has nothing to do with the disqualification,” he informed the bench.
Around the same time, the poll panel asked the rival factions of the Shiv Sena led by Thackeray and Shinde to submit documents by August 8 in support of their claims on the election symbol -- bow and arrow -- of the political outfit.
In October, last year, the EC has allotted the flaming torch —mashal— as the election symbol to the Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena faction. The EC also allotted the name 'Shiv Sena - Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray' to Uddhav's faction.
Shinde's faction was also allotted the name 'Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena'. However, Shinde’s faction was not allotted any symbol and has been asked to look for fresh symbols.
The allotment of new names and symbols came two days after the EC froze Sena's name and bow-and-arrow symbol as the two factions of Sena led by Uddhav and Shinde are locked in a tussle to prove to be the 'real' Sena. For the purpose of upcoming Andheri East constituency, the EC had asked the two factions to submit alternatives names and symbols.
Earlier, sources in the poll panel confirmed that the alternate symbols and names have been submitted by both the factions. The poll panel examined whether the symbols are not the same or whether they are not being used by any other party. The EC also examined whether the symbols submitted do not stand frozen by it already.
It was earlier reported that Uddhav faction had submitted three symbols — trident (trishul), burning torch, and rising Sun. The EC denied trishul and gada (mace) as poll symbols to rival Shiv Sena factions over their religious connotations. Trishul is associated with Hindu God Shiva and mace is associated with Hindu God Hanuman.
On December 15, the Delhi High Court reserved its order on an appeal by former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray challenging a single judge’s decision dismissing his plea against an Election Commission interim order freezing the Shiv Sena name and election symbol.
Thackeray claimed that the single judge’s November 15 order, by which it had also directed the EC to expedite the proceedings, is “erroneous” and liable to be set aside. A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, after hearing arguments of counsels for both the parties, said, “We will pass appropriate orders.” Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Thackeray, submitted that the EC did not hear him while passing the freezing of symbol order.
“Never in the history of the commission, freezing order has been passed without hearing the party,” he argued. The single judge bench, in its order, had said that there was “no procedural infraction” in the EC’s order freezing the Shiv Sena’s name and election symbol following a “split” in the party.
(with PTI inputs)