Sharad Pawar, MVA leaders huddle to draw plan
Leaders of the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) on Sunday got into a huddle at the Mumbai residence of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar to discuss the political fallout of the rebellion in the Shiv Sena led by state’s minister Eknath Shinde.
In the meeting, the MVA leaders stressed that the Shinde-led rebel faction has no option but to merge themselves with a political party to escape disqualification from the legislative assembly as per the constitutional provisions, people familiar with the development said.
Pawar met leaders of the NCP, Shiv Sena leaders Anil Parab and Anil Desai and Congress ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan. Parab and Desai informed the leaders that many legislators in the rebel camp were not in favour of the merger option as they do not want to leave the Shiv Sena, said a senior MVA leader, who was present in the meeting. This has created a discontent in the rebel camp and some of the MLAs have shown their interest in returning back to the party fold, the leader added, requesting anonymity.
Pawar also confirmed it while talking to reporters in Delhi. “Shiv Sena believes that after coming to Mumbai, many (rebel) MLAs will change their stand. They know their leaders better than others,” said the NCP chief, adding it was Sena’s internal matter.
“We are hopeful that some of the MLAs will return and during voting (for floor test) it will be clear that Uddhav Thackeray can run the government in Maharashtra,” Pawar said. “They (Shinde led camp) claim to have the numbers. We are surprised that if they have the numbers, why they are still staying at Guwahati. By now, they would have come to the governor (Bhagat Singh Koshyari) or any other democratic set up to prove majority.”
Another MVA leader citing legal experts said that nothing can stop the disqualification of rebel MLAs if they do not merge the group in a political outfit. “The MLAs were misguided that they do not have to leave the Shiv Sena. None of them knew that their group of two-third MLAs has to be merged with a political party,” said the leader, wishing not to be named.
“In the meeting, Pawar also asked the Shiv Sena to be prepared for a legal recourse on this point as it will give an advantage to MVA when it comes to a legal battle,” the leader added.
Pawar also clarified that his party will support Shiv Sena only if its leadership remains with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. “They (rebel MLAs) want to form a new alliance but as far as NCP and Congress are concerned, we are fully supporting Shiv Sena. Our alliance is with Sena and we want it to continue… Our stand is clear. We will support Uddhav Thackeray till the end. Our commitment to support Shiv Sena is under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership,” the former Union minister said.
On Saturday, Maharashtra assembly deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal initiated a process of disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena by issuing summons to them. The MLAs were asked to file a written reply by Monday evening in response to a petition filed by Shiv Sena to disqualify them.
On Sunday, the issue reached the Supreme Court, where the rebel group appealed against disqualification notices issued by the deputy speaker.
Explaining the legal and constitutional provisions of disqualification of legislators, Supreme Court lawyer Devadatt Kamat said the Shiv Sena has the power to disqualify the rebel MLAs who were misguided that they could “exist as a separate group while supporting a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government”. The rebel MLAs will be disqualified as per the existing provisions of the anti-defection law, Kamat said.
“The rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena will be disqualified as their claim that they have two-thirds majority and hence the provision of anti-defection law will not be applicable is not true,” Kamat said. “Shiv Sena has already initiated a disqualification process against the 16 MLAs under Para 2 (1) of the Tenth Schedule.”
A group having two-thirds majority will not face disqualification “only if they merge with another party”, he said.