The Shiv Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray suffered a body blow on Friday when the Election Commission of India (ECI) recognised the faction led by chief minister Eknath Shinde as the real Shiv Sena. Shinde supporters burst crackers outside their party office opposite Mantralaya. The ECI, in its 78-page order, also alloted the symbol "Bow & Arrow" to Shinde's faction. The Sena, founded by the late Bal Thackeray 1966, had consistently fought elections on the "Bow & Arrow" symbol all these decades and its allotment to Shinde is a major setback to Thackeray.
The EC has made some serious observations about the lack of inner party democracy in the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray. The Commission also noted that Thackeray had not submitted to it the party's amended constitution. The amendment was done in 2018. Uddhav Thackeray had also not provided the complete list of his party's office-bearers. The Commission also observed that as per the 2018 amendment the choice of the electoral college to elect the party president was left to Udhav Thackeray and this was "against the spirit of democracy". Now onwards Shinde group can use the name and symbol of the Shivsena party.
Shiv Sena UBT to stay till bye-elections
The EC has allowed the Uddhav Thackeray group to use the `"laming torch" symbol and name Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) as its name till the end of ongoing by-elections to the Chinchwad and Kasaba Peth assembly constituencies in Pune.
Eknath Shinde group has always claimed that it is the real Shivsena. The matter had gone into the election commission as well as the Supreme Court. The Court had allowed the election commission to proceed with the hearing of the claims and counter claims made by Shinde and Thackeray. Till the time of its final decision the ECI had frozen the ``bow & arrow" symbol and Shiv Sena as name. Shinde group was given the name Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena and the "two sword and shield" symbol. The Uddhav group was given "flaming torch" symbol and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) name. But, ultimately the name and symbol has gone to the Shinde group.
A jubliant Chief Minister Eknath Shinde welcomed the ECI's decision. "This decision is on merit and I thank the election commission for it. We have been working on the legacy of Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe. This is a victory of MLAs. MPs, other people's representatives as well as common Shivsena workers. This is a victory of truth and democracy," he added. In July 2022 Shinde along with 39 MLAs moved out of the Shiv Sena in a closely-guarded operation and later formed the government with the support of the BJP.
Uddhav Thackeray group's leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut had called the ECI's order a "mockery of justice". "The Election commission was under pressure from the BJP. Constitutional authorities are under pressure in the country. But we will fight against this. We will move the Supreme Court against the election commission," he added.
Reacting to the EC order, Deputy Chief MInister Devendra Fadnavis said that the real successor of Balasaheb Thackeray has got the control of the party. "Hindutva was the ideology of Balasaheb. Shinde ji is taking this legacy forward. This legacy can not be the property of some individuals. I welcome this decision and congratulate Eknath Shinde," said Fadanavis.
Reacting to EC order, NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who was earlier in the Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray, said that the decision is surprising and unfortunate. “Looking at the current environment in India, this decision was expected by the Thackeray group. I would call it unfortunate. This should not have happened,” he said. Balasaheb Thorat of the Congress said the people of Maharashtra are not ready to accept that the Shiv Sena does not belong to the Thackerays. "In the upcoming elections the people will back Uddhav Thackeray," he added.