Over two months after the alliance government of Shiv Sena rebel faction leader and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took charge, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is slated to visit Mumbai on September 5, at the height of the Ganeshotsav festival.
Shah’s customary annual visit to the state’s biggest festival for the past few years used to be a largely religious affair – visiting the Lalbaugcha Raja and other important venues, and taking ‘darshan’ of Lord Ganesha at the homes of several BJP bigwigs in the city.
This year, however, the devotional menu may be laced with a subtle political docket intended to strengthen the Shinde-Fadnavis regime – currently bedevilled by internal, external and legal hassles, plus other political ghosts.
Fadnavis acknowledged all the possibilities with a grin, indicating “there will be a political agenda” during Shah’s visit on Monday, but declined to elaborate.
The Shinde-Fadnavis government has been struggling to attain credibility among the masses after it toppled the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress, led by Uddhav Thackeray.
The MVA has viciously targeted and vituperatively lampooned them for the manner in which the government came to power, with embarrassing choruses of “Khoke Ok” (boxes, implying Rs 50 crore), “traitors”, etc. haunting the “ED sarkar” and needling the 40-odd legislators of the rebel group who sneaked out from June 10 onwards.
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena even went a step ahead comparing them with a famous Arabian Nights tale of 40 dubious characters, attracting howls of protests and bitter counter-attacks from the “turncoats”.
Shinde faced flak for the massive delays in the cabinet expansion with 18 Ministers – which took place 41 days after he and Fadnavis took oath on June 30 – followed by the hiccups in allocating portfolios, and the hanging swords of the legal tussle in the Supreme Court.
Now, he confronts discontent afresh with many MLAs from his and BJP side clamouring for ministerial berths, and while a second round of expansion may take a while, Shah may cast a benign “glance” and placate the restless legislators.
There is the pending issue of the proposed tie-up with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray, which the BJP has been hoping for since the past over a couple of years.
Once a sharp BJP-baiter, Raj Thackeray apparently sobered up his pilgrimage to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in August 2019, and now the “ED sarkar” is “after” him for a much-anticipated partnership, ahead of the upcoming crucial civic polls.
After recovering from a hip surgery, Raj Thackeray has been the flavour of the season for the BJP with a host of leaders calling on him, like Shinde, Fadnavis, state and city party heads Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ashish Shelar, respectively, and others.
There’s intense speculation that Shah may home in on the reluctant Raj Thackeray and nudge him into a cooperative alliance – for the mutual benefit of MNS-BJP-Shinde Group – in the civic elections, to begin with, and get a “Thackeray” on the BJP side.
In recent weeks, some prominent Congressmen like ex-CM Ashok Chavan, have been doing multiple rounds of several BJP leaders, rattling the party’s state unit.
However, Congress leaders and Chavan have been claiming that these meetings pertain to “official or constituency-related works”, but the political grapevine is furiously spreading into a vineyard!
It is not immediately clear whether Shah will devote any attention to this new political development – that may well spell further doom for the MVA.
Maharashtra ATS to enforce further crackdown on PFI after Centre’s ban￼
The agency has so far conducted raids in 12 districts in Maharashtra, arresting and detaining scores of people linked to the Islamist organisation
Following the central government’s imposition of a five-year ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is planning to enforce a further crackdown on the organisation in the state, a senior officer said on Wednesday.“Relevant action has been initiated against the PFI in Maharashtra in accordance with the Centre’s ban this morning. We are getting details of their offices, members and bank accounts,” the officer said.
The agency has so far conducted raids in 12 districts in Maharashtra, arresting and detaining scores of people linked to the Islamist organisation. Sources said that more arrests are likely to happen in the days to come based on interrogations of the accused arrested so far.
The Union home ministry’s move banning the PFI and its affiliates under Section 3 of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act will be referred to a tribunal for adjudication, whether or not there is sufficient cause to declare the organisation “unlawful association”, people familiar with the procedure said.
Uddhav vs Shinde: SC allows EC to decide which faction is real Shiv Sena
In a big setback to Uddhav Thackeray’s faction, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop the Election Commission from deciding the claim of Eknath Shinde group to be the real Shiv Sena.
After a day-long hearing, a constitution bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the interlocutory application filed on behalf of Thackeray’s faction. The apex court’s decision is very significant in view of the impending Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, where both Shinde and Thackeray factions would like to contest the poll.
The bench — also comprising Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha — said there would not be any stay on the proceedings before the Election Commission on intra party dispute and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol of the party. “We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission of India,” it said.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A.M. Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat represented the Thackeray’s faction. Sibal submitted that Shinde cannot approach the EC once he has incurred disqualification, saying “I challenged the very locus of the person who moved the EC”.
Sibal clarified that Shinde has incurred disqualification as his various acts amounted to “voluntarily giving up membership of the party” under the Tenth Schedule, and he also violated the party whip, which is also covered by the Tenth Schedule.
The Thackeray camp vociferously argued that since disqualification of Shinde and the MLAs supporting him was pending, therefore EC cannot consider their application over the party and the symbol. However, the top court declined to entertain this contention.
Senior advocates Maninder Singh, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, and Mahesh Jethmalani, assisted by advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, argued for the Shinde faction.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar represented the Election Commission.
Shinde’s faction counsel argued that under Article 324 of the Constitution, the EC possesses plenty of powers to deal with any situation which arises in relation to political parties and several party members have sent their representations to the EC supporting the Shinde group.
Kaul submitted that the nature of enquiry under Tenth Schedule and the Symbols Order are different.
Shinde’s faction counsel claimed a hopeless minority sought to remove him from the party, and contended that the Speaker, under the Tenth Schedule, has to exercise power to determine disqualification of a member and he cannot decide on the split or merger within a political party. Shinde faction counsel vehemently argued that a party member’s right to move the EC cannot be taken away.
The EC counsel argued that it worked independently, and its functions are different when compared with the Speaker. The counsel added that it can decide who held the majority in the party.
Shinde and his faction had rebelled against Thackeray, which forced him to resign as Maharashtra Chief Minister.
Shiv Sena’s General Secretary Subhash Desai had moved the apex court saying that Shinde and other MLAs, have purportedly initiated proceedings under para 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order) seeking to be recognised as the “real Shiv Sena” by the EC. Desai added that they are also claiming the right to use the election symbol of “bow and arrow” allotted to Shiv Sena.
Thackeray faction claimed that since the disqualification matter is pending in the apex court, Shinde faction are trying to illegally cobble up numbers and fabricate an artificial majority in the organisation.
The apex court, on July 11, asked the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker not to go ahead with proceedings on the disqualification petitions.
Both Shiv Sena groups welcome SC decision
Both Shiv Sena factions – led by ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde – welcomed the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday allowing the Election Commission to decide on the ‘real Shiv Sena’ and the allotment of the iconic bow-and-arrow symbol.
In his first reaction, Shinde said he humbly welcomed the apex court decision and reiterated that his faction is the “real Shiv Sena”.
“In a democracy, the majority counts and we have that majority in the assembly, a majority of the MPs are supporting us. All decisions taken in the country are based on the Constitution, laws and procedures. We have not done anything to flout any laws and we have formed this government also on the basis of the laws. We were expecting this decision,” he said.
Shiv Sena ex-Minister Aditya Thackeray said that “this is not a relief” as claimed by the Shinde group leaders, while MP Arvind Sawant said that this decision is part of the legal procedures, and the whole country has witnessed the court proceedings.
“This is neither a shock nor relief to any side. The SC has now asked the ECI to take a decision in the matter. The ‘traitors’ have not got any victory as they are claiming. Now we shall present our case before the ECI. We have full faith in the judiciary,” said Thackeray Jr.
Terming it as “the first blow to Uddhav Thackeray” with more to come, Shinde said that they had full faith in the EC, even as several other leaders his Group hailed verdict rejecting the Sena’s plea for a stay on the ECI on the rival group’s claims before it.
Nationalist Congress Party state President Jayant Patil, Sena leaders like Anil Desai, ex-Minister Anil Parab and others also said that they accept the SC verdict and will now present their case strongly before the EC.
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