Shiv Sena split: ahead of verdict, Uddhav Thackeray moves SC against Speaker-CM Shinde meet

Mr. Narwekar is expected to pronounce the judgment in the Assembly after 4 p.m. on January 10

January 10, 2024 08:10 am | Updated 12:29 pm IST - Pune

Shiv Sena (UBT) Chief Uddhav Thackeray during a press conference, in Mumbai, on Jan. 9, 2024.

Shiv Sena (UBT) Chief Uddhav Thackeray during a press conference, in Mumbai, on Jan. 9, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on January 9 said his party had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court objecting to a recent visit by Speaker Rahul Narwekar to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde before the verdict on disqualification petitions against Mr. Shinde and several MLAs whose rebellion had split the Shiv Sena in June 2022.

Mr. Narwekar is expected to pronounce the judgment in the Assembly after 4 p.m. on January 10.

“Since the Supreme Court’s direction to the Speaker to give a judgment on the disqualification case, Mr. Narwekar has met CM Shinde twice in private. It is like the judge meeting the accused. If he is doing that, then there is a serious question over the kind of justice we can expect,” said Mr. Thackeray. The Speaker met Mr. Shinde on January 7.

Also Read | Sena vs Sena: Ahead of verdict, Thackeray chastises Speaker Narwekar’s private visit to CM Shinde

In response, Mr. Narwekar said the Shiv Sena (UBT) chief had levelled the allegations to “put pressure on the decision-making process” and that his meeting with the CM had been scheduled earlier.

“I am going to take a decision by which the people of the State will get justice,” he added.

‘Delaying tactics’

Speaking to mediapersons at his residence ‘Matoshree’ in Mumbai, Mr. Thackeray accused the Speaker of procrastination and said the Speaker could drag the reading of the verdict in a bid to seek a further extension in the case.

“The apex court had directed the Speaker to give judgment within a reasonable time frame. It had given December 31 as the deadline [which was later extended by 10 days]. But the manner in which the hearing has proceeded smacks of delaying tactics,” said Mr. Thackeray, who was the Chief Minister of the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government before it was toppled by Mr. Shinde’s revolt.

The affidavit submitted by the Shiv Sena (UBT) before the apex court states, “It is highly improper for the Speaker to meet Eknath Shinde three days before deciding on the disqualification petition. The Speaker is required to act in an impartial manner. However, the present act of the Speaker raises questions about his fairness and impartiality in the decision-making process.”

‘Constituency matter’

Hitting back at the former CM, the Speaker said no rule prohibits him from conducting other tasks while the adjudication process is on.

“There are a number of issues pertaining to the Assembly, of which the CM is a member. As an MLA myself, I have a number of matters related to my constituency. I do not think I need to explain myself to someone,” said Mr. Narwekar.

The Speaker, a BJP MLA from Colaba in Mumbai, said his meeting with Mr. Shinde was initially slated for January 3.

“But I was down with influenza at the time and could not leave home. It was very important to meet the CM over a number of developmental issues in my constituency,” he said.

“This morning, I met [UBT-Sena group MP] Anil Desai and [Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction’s] Jayant Patil in the VIP lounge of Mumbai airport. Does it mean I am engaging in suspicious behaviour?” he said.

He added that he would strictly adhere to the Constitution and traditions of the Legislative Assembly while pronouncing his verdict.

Dismissing Mr. Thackeray’s allegations as baseless, the CM said he expected the Speaker to deliver a verdict based on “merit”.

Mr. Shinde said that his government had been formed in “a perfectly legitimate manner” and that his party had the majority of the Shiv Sena MLAs and MPs right from the start.

“We have not done anything illegal. Our government was established as per rights given in the Constitution. Right from day one, we [Shinde-led Sena] have had a majority [of the Sena MLAs] in the Assembly and Parliament,” he said.

Deputy CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis expressed hope that Mr. Narwekar would give an “appropriate” judgment.

“The [Eknath Shinde-led] Shiv Sena’s defence is strong. We have set up a legal government. I hope we get justice through the Speaker’s verdict. The government was stable yesterday and will remain so tomorrow,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.

The background

On May 11 last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Shinde would continue to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra while stating that it could not reinstate the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government headed by Mr. Thackeray as the latter chose to resign without facing a floor test in the wake of Mr. Shinde’s rebellion.

However, the apex court had questioned then Governor B.S. Koshyari’s action of calling for a floor test in order to solve an intra-party dispute.

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