Four months after Eknath Shinde stripped Shiv Sena from the Maharashtra assembly to replace him as Prime Minister, Uddhav Thackeray today submitted his own dataset to the Election Commission to send to the party – name, structure , symbols and all.
Technically, still the chairman of the party his father, Bal Thackeray, founded five decades ago, Uddhav Thackeray admits that most of the party’s lawmakers are not with him. But he listed Eknath Shinde’s numbers as ‘Nil’. His argument: Rebellious legislators should not be taken into account because of the disqualifying claims awaiting them against them.
The committee requested a response from Uddhav Thackeray, who is technically the head of the party, after the Shinde camp announced the party and its bow and arrow symbolism. He replied that because Eknath Shinde and his supporters had voluntarily left the party, they could not request the emblem before the adjourned meeting on November 3.
On the datasheet, Uddhav Thackeray said he has 14 out of 54 Sena MLAs, all 12 members of the Legislative Council (Senate), 7 out of 19 Lok Sabha MPs and all three Rajya Sabha members. “Members alleging support of the petitioner have been disqualified and disqualification petitions pending,” the submission reads.
In the 288-member parliament, Eknath Shinde’s government proved a majority with 164 votes. Its BJP counterpart has 106 MLAs and it also gets support from several others.
Within party units – a factor in the Election Commission’s decision – Team Thackeray admitted that some of its office staff had switched allegiances. It said 11 of the 29 states in charge were Eknath Shinde’s.
But it claims that on the party’s national executive board – most recently formed in January 2018 – it has the backing of 160 out of 234 members. It lists ‘Nil’ for Eknath Shinde.
It was among the main members that Team Thackeray made the biggest demands: “nearly 100,000” for their faction, with just over 1,60,000 for the rebels. It has collected affidavits of support from party members and has set a target of more than 50,000 to submit to the polling board.
Team Thackeray then went on to claim all 2,62,542 of the “post-organizational holders”. These include unit heads from districts, right down to the polling station – interestingly, the 50:50 ratio between men and women is very neat.
Eknath Shinde, whose uprising was successful with backing from the BJP, claims his faction cannot be disqualified because it has more than two-thirds of the power in the legislature, enough to evade the anti-defection law.
Mr Shinde claimed Bal Thackeray’s “original Hindutva legacy” and alleged that his son Uddhav had gone astray in parting ways with the BJP “natural ally” following a 2018 state poll to form a government with the National Assembly and the NCP.
In the immediate future, the Election Commission will decide whether Sena, led by Thackeray, can use the bow and arrow symbol for the road in Andheri East. This is the first major election since the Sena mutiny in June.
Mr. Thackeray won the recent perception battle. He was allotted the traditional party venue for the annual Dussehra rally – Shivaji Park – and Eknath Shinde had to hold his rally at another location in Mumbai.