Eknath Shinde faction gets Shiv Sena name, symbol

The EC observed Uddhav Thackeray faction’s symbol and name were “undemocratic” while validating the Shinde faction for having much higher voter support

February 17, 2023 07:20 pm | Updated February 18, 2023 09:51 am IST - New Delhi

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde pays tribute to Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray at Memorial Hall, Shivaji Park in Mumbai on February 17, 2023.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde pays tribute to Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray at Memorial Hall, Shivaji Park in Mumbai on February 17, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Election Commission of India on Friday allotted the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and the party’s bow and arrow symbol to the Eknath Shinde faction in effect recognising it as the original party founded by Balasaheb Thackerey.

The Commission said that it had based its decision on a “test on majority” as the group of MLAs supporting the Eknath Shinde group had got nearly 76% of the votes polled for the 55 winning Shiv Sena candidates in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly Elections, while the Uddhav Thackeray faction got only 23.5% of votes.

“The party name Shiv Sena and the Party symbol Bow and Arrow will be retained by the petitioner (Eknath Shinde) faction,” the EC ruled in a detailed 78-page order.

The two factions have been locked in a fight over the party’s name and symbol since last June when Mr. Shinde walked out of Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance with 40 MLAs in a high-voltage revolt.

Mr. Shinde then became the Chief Minister with the support of the BJP. Before the Election Commission, his faction has claimed the support of 40 of the Shiv Sena’s 56 MLAs and 13 of the 18 Members of the Lok Sabha.

In November 2022, the commission had frozen the bow and arrow symbol of the Shiv Sena and had allotted the ‘Two Swords and Shield symbol’ to the Eknath Shinde faction and the ‘flaming torch’ (mashaal) symbol to the Uddhav Thackeray faction for the bypolls in the Andheri East assembly constituency.

In its order on Friday, the commission froze the party name ‘Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena’ and the symbol ‘Two Swords and a Shield’ previously allotted to the Eknath Shinde faction. It also asked the Uddhav Thackeray faction to continue with the ‘Flaming Torch’ symbol.

‘Party constitution undemocratic’

In scathing observations, the Election Commission said that the party constitution, which the Uddhav Thackeray faction had used to claim the symbol and name, was “undemocratic”.

“To put it in a nutshell, the party constitution envisages the President nominating the Electoral College that is to elect him. This goes against the spirit of democracy and negates the very purpose for which the entire exercise was carried out,” the Commission said.

“It (Shiv Sena constitution) has been mutilated to undemocratically appoint people from a coterie as office bearers without any election at all. Such party structures fail to inspire confidence,” it added.

Party turned fiefdom

The Commission observed that the party had been made into a fiefdom by the undemocratic norms of its original constitution.. It said that these norms, which had not been accepted by the Commission in 1999, have been brought back in a surreptitious manner.

The ECI order asked the Shinde faction to amend the 2018 constitution of the party in line with the relevant sections of the Representation of People Act 1951.

Continuing its attack on the internal functioning of all political parties, the ECI remarked that it was “paradoxical” that the internal functioning of a party was scrutinised only in cases of dipute redressals. The Commission asked parties to follow ECI guidelines and periodically upload a copy of their constitutions and the list of their office-bearers on their websites.

“The constitution of political parties ought to provide for free, fair and transparent elections to the posts of office bearers and a further free and fair procedure for the resolution of internal disputes. Party constitutions are often amended to allow for self-destruction by obliterating the internal democratic mechanisms,” it said.

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