Post-SC verdict, all eyes on Maharashtra Speaker Narwekar

Speaker has no other option except to disqualify MLAs from Shinde faction, say experts

May 11, 2023 09:50 pm | Updated May 12, 2023 12:27 pm IST - Mumbai:

Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar with Chief Minister Ekanth Shinde. File

Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar with Chief Minister Ekanth Shinde. File | Photo Credit: ANI

With the Supreme Court on May 11 ruling in the Maharashtra political row case that “the Speaker must decide on the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period,” all eyes are now on Speaker Rahul Narwekar.

Mr. Narwekar is born and brought up in the Colaba area of south Mumbai and he joined the Shiv Sena as a youth leader. After leaving the Sena, he joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 2014 and was fielded as the Lok Sabha candidate from the Mawal constituency. He lost the seat and joined the BJP in 2019 ahead of the Assembly polls and won the Colaba seat. He was a lawyer and had a lucrative practice before joining politics. His father-in-law is a senior NCP leader and former legislative council chairman, Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar.

After the Eknath Shinde government was formed, on July 3, 2022, Mr. Narwekar emerged victorious, with a total of 164 votes having been cast in his favour, and became the Speaker, a post that was lying vacant since January 2021 following the resignation of Nana Patole.

The five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on May 11 did not decide on the disqualification petitions filed by former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and said, “This court cannot ordinarily adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the 10th Schedule [disqualification on the ground of defection] in the first instance. There are no extraordinary circumstances in the instant case that warrant the exercise of jurisdiction by this court to adjudicate disqualification petitions. The Speaker must decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period.”

The apex court held Mr. Narwekar’s decision recognising Bharat Gogawale, a candidate of the Shinde group, as the new Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena party “illegal.” Stressing the difference between a political party and a legislature party, the court said, “To hold that it is the legislature party which appoints the whip would be to sever the figurative umbilical cord which connects the member of the House to the political party.”

Also Read | Morality and majority: on the Supreme Court verdict on the political imbroglio in Maharashtra

‘No other option’

As for the recognition of Sunil Prabhu, who was originally appointed as the Chief Whip by the Shiv Sena party, the experts have opined that Mr. Narwekar must disqualify the 16 MLAs who violated the whip issued by Mr. Prabhu. P.D.T. Achary, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, said, “The Speaker has no other option except to disqualify the MLAs from the Shinde faction. Because the Supreme Court has said that the whip can be issued by the political party, i.e. party headed by Uddhav Thackeray. This means the Shinde faction which defied the whip, so naturally they are liable to be disqualified.”

Nikhil Wagle, political analyst and author, said, “The Supreme Court has categorically said the selection of the whip is illegal, then the entire process is illegal, so the Speaker doesn’t have much option. But Mr. Narwekar is openly partial, so I think he will delay the process and finally give a verdict, where Mr. Thackeray will have to go to Supreme Court once again.”

Mr. Narwekar was not available for a quote as he is in London on a pre-decided tour and will return on May 15.

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