Four months after Eknath Shinde took away the Shiv Sena numbers in the Maharashtra assembly to replace him as Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray today submitted his own dataset to the Election Commission to on to the party — name, structure, symbol and all.
Technically still president of the party his father, Bal Thackeray, founded five decades ago, Uddhav Thackeray acknowledged that most of its legislators are not with him. But he listed Eknath Shinde’s numbers as ‘Nil’. His argument: The rebel legislators should not be counted because disqualification pleas are pending against them.
The commission had asked for a response from Uddhav Thackeray, who is technically the party chief, after the Shinde camp claimed the party and its bow-and-arrow symbol. He responded that since Eknath Shinde and his supporters had left the party on their own, they could not claim the symbol ahead of an assembly bypoll scheduled for November 3.
On the datasheet, Uddhav Thackeray says he has 14 of the 54 Sena MLAs, all 12 members of the Legislative Council (Upper House), seven of the 19 Lok Sabha MPs, and all three Rajya Sabha members. “Members who allege to support the petitioner have incurred disqualification and the disqualification petitions are pending,” the submission reads.
In the 288-member assembly, Eknath Shinde’s government had proved its majority with 164 votes. Its partner BJP has 106 MLAs and it got support from some others as well.
Within the party units – a factor in the Election Commission’s decision – Team Thackeray acknowledges that a number of its office-bearers have switched loyalties. It says 11 of its 29 state in-charges are with Eknath Shinde.
But it claims that in the party’s national executive — as last formed in January 2018 — it has support of 160 of the 234 members. It lists ‘Nil’ for Eknath Shinde.
It’s among primary members that Team Thackeray has made the biggest claim: “almost 10 lakh” on its side, with just over 1.6 lakh for the rebel faction. It’s already gathering affidavits of support from party members and has set a target of over 5 lakh for physical submission to the poll panel.
Team Thackeray then goes on to claim all 2,62,542 of the “post-holders in the organisational structure”. These include unit chiefs from districts right down to polling booths — interestingly, a neat 50:50 between men and women.
Eknath Shinde, whose rebellion succeeded with support from the BJP, claims his faction cannot be disqualified as it has over two-third strength in the legislature, enough to avoid the anti-defection law.
Mr Shinde has claimed Bal Thackeray’s “original Hindutva legacy” and alleged that son Uddhav deviated from its when he broke up with “natural ally” BJP after the 2018 state polls to form a government with the Congress and NCP.
In the immediate, the Election Commission is to decide if the Thackeray-led Sena can use the bow-and-arrow symbol for the bypoll in Andheri East. It’s the first significant election since the Sena mutiny in June.
Mr Thackeray did score a win on the perception battlefront recently. He was allotted the party’s traditional venue for its annual Dussehra rally — Shivaji Park — and Eknath Shinde had to hold his rally at another place in Mumbai.