The Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the proceedings of the Election Commission to determine the leader of the party, Live Law reported.
On July 22, the Election Commission had directed Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to submit documents to prove which faction of the Shiv Sena has support of majority of the party members.
In a plea filed on Monday, the Thackeray faction has argued that the Election Commission cannot decide on the legitimate leader of the party unless a pending petition on disqualification of 16 Maharashtra MLAs is decided upon.
Chaos had ensued in the Shiv Sena last month after Shinde and a group of party MLAs rebelled against the Maharashtra government – a coalition of Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
After more than a week of political drama, the coalition was ousted from power as the Thackeray faction was reduced to a minority in the state Assembly. Shinde was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra on June 30, while the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis took oath as his deputy.
On July 4, Shinde won a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly. He got 164 votes in his support, significantly above the majority mark of 145, while 99 MLAs voted against him.
Following the split in the party, the Election Commission will have to decide on which faction has the right to identify itself as the Shiv Sena and use the party symbol.
The Shinde-led faction has claimed to have the support of 40 out of 55 Shiv Sena MLAs in Maharashtra and 12 out of its 18 Lok Sabha MPs.
Six petitions filed by the two factions are pending in the courts.
These include, Shinde’s plea challenging the disqualification notices issued against him and 15 other MLAs of his on June 25.
Thackeray, on the other hand, has filed a plea against newly-elected Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar’s decision to recognise Bharatsheth Gogawale as the new party whip. He has also filed petition against the governor’s decision to call for a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly
On Monday, the Thackeray-led faction claimed that the Election Commission cannot decide on the party’s fate until the Supreme Court decides on the disqualification of Shinde and 15 other MLAs of the rebel camp.
“If the ECI is allowed to proceed with the proceedings initiated by it on July 22, it would not only precipitate issues of great constitutional import pending before this court, it would also cause irreparable injury to the applicant [Thackeray faction] as any proceedings before the ECI relying upon the petition of persons whose status as legislators is itself in question before this court will not be just and proper,” the plea said, according to India Today.
The plea also contended that the Shinde-led faction cannot be considered as MLAs of Shiv Sena and affidavits filed by them cannot be relied upon.