Even as the two rival Shiv Sena factions slug it out in the Supreme Court over their respective disqualification pleas against each pther, Sena MP and Uddhav Thackeray loyalist Vinayak Raut on July 21 questioned the “unseemly haste” on part of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla in approving rebel MP Rahul Shewale as the new floor leader in the Lower House.
Mr. Raut, the MP from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency, who was appointed by Mr. Thackeray as the Sena’s group leader in the Lok Sabha, further said that the Thackeray camp planned to move the Supreme Court over the “partisan attitude” displayed by the Lok Sabha Secretariat and Mr. Birla in endorsing Mr. Shewale, who has been named by the Eknath Shinde-led rebel camp as the new group leader.
On July 19, the Sena’s Lok Sabha group had split after 12 of the 19 Sena Lok Sabha MPs moved over to the Shinde rebel camp, which named Mumbai South-Central MP Rahul Shewale as new Sena group leader in the Lok Sabha in lieu of Mr. Raut.
“We cannot understand the attitude of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Speaker. We have been denied natural justice on the basis that group leaders are nominated by the party head, who happens to be Uddhav Thackeray in this case…group leaders are not decided on the basis of who has more numbers [referring to the rebel Shinde camp]. We will move the Supreme Court to question why due process was not followed by the Lok Sabha Secretariat,” Mr. Raut said, speaking in new Delhi.
Stating that the Speaker had chosen to ignore two letters in the past few days submitted by the Thackeray camp, Mr. Raut said that on the evening of July 18, they had visited Mr. Birla’s with a plea that he [Mr.Raut] was the officially appointed leader of the Sena’s parliamentary party and urged the Speaker not to entertain any representation from the breakaway Shinde faction.
“We had also submitted a letter in this regard on July 19 and had urged the Speaker to give us time to state our case in the event he did accept any representation from the rival faction…Earlier, on July 6, we had submitted another letter to the Speaker and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, stating that MP Rajan Vichare would henceforth be the party’s chief whip in lieu of Ms. Bhawana Gawli. However, it appears that the Speaker paid no heed to this as well,” Mr. Raut said.
He said it was surprising that while the Shinde camp submitted their letter naming Mr. Shewale, the MP from Mumbai South-Central constituency, and reinstating Ms. Gawli, the MP from Yavatmal-Washim, as chief whip on July 19, their names were promptly approved by the Speaker, who even issued a backdated notification that the changes would take effect from July 18.
“Yesterday [July 20], we read Mr. Shewale’s name as the new Shiv Sena floor leader on the Lok Sabha portal. It is unfortunate that the Lok Sabha secretariat did not take cognisance of our representations but hastily approved that of the Shinde camp… We don’t think this is the right decision and smacks of a partisan attitude,” Mr. Raut said, adding that the Uddhav Thackeray camp of the party was also planning to question the Lok Sabha Speaker in writing on the issue.
Meanwhile, in a bid to win over the remaining MPs in the Uddhav Thackeray camp, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde today visited ailing MP and senior Sena leader Gajanan Kirtikar at the latter’s residence.
However, Mr. Raut claimed that despite the defections of the majority of Sena MLAs and MPs to the rebel camp, the rank and file of the party stood firmly behind Uddhav Thackeray and not the rebel leaders.