Mumbai: The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and the rebel faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde are once again ranged against each other, this time over the election for the Speaker of the Maharashtra assembly, slated to be held on July 3. The Shiv Sena has fielded senior MLA Rajan Salvi, backed by allies NCP and the Congress. The BJP has named Rahul Narvekar as its candidate. Two separate whips have been issued, as both sides have warned of disqualification for non-compliance. Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu has issued a whip for the 55 Shiv Sena legislators to cast their vote for Salvi. On the other hand, the chief whip of the Shinde camp, Bharat Gogawale, has issued a whip to vote for Narvekar.
Salvi had hoped that he would win the election, hinting that party legislators disobeying the whip issued by Prabhu would attract disqualification. The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has sacked Shinde as the legislative party leader and replaced him with Ajay Choudhari, while the rebel camp has appointed Shinde as its legislative party leader. The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena is left with 16 legislators while the Shinde camp claims the support of 39 legislators.
Shiv Sena legislator Sachin Ajit told The Free Press Journal, “The power to issue a whip rests with the party’s chief whip.”
However, CM Eknath Shinde, who landed in Mumbai with his group of legislators from Goa, was furious over the whip issued by Prabhu, claiming that it did not apply to them as they have majority (two-thirds of 55 Sena legislators are with the Shinde camp). “We are going for a floor test on July 4. We are sure of victory as we have a majority,” he added. Shinde has claimed the support of 170 legislators, comprising 106 MLAs of the BJP and 14 others, apart from 50 legislators comprising 39 from the Shinde camp and 11 Independents and smaller parties.
The opposition Shiv Sena, the NCP and Congress have the support of around 120 legislators.
The Congress and NCP have taken serious objection to Governor B S Koshyari’s consenting to the Speaker’s election with the change in the government. Congress Legislative Party leader Balasaheb Thorat and NCP Legislative Party leader Jayant Patil recalled how the governor had rejected the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s plea to hold the Speaker’s election made in March this year, saying that the matter was sub judice.
Governor’s nod for voice vote
The Shinde-Fadnavis government has received major relief with the governor allowing the Speaker’s election to be held on Sunday through a voice vote, and not by secret ballot. Interestingly, he had turned down similar, repeated pleas by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, saying it was in violation of the Constitution. The MVA government had even amended the rules for holding the Speaker’s election through a voice vote instead of secret ballot.
Meanwhile, the governor has reportedly asked the Shinde-Fadnavis government to send the names of 12 leaders for nomination in the state council under the governor’s quota. The MVA government had forwarded 12 names for this purpose in November 2020 but the governor did not do so, despite reminders.