In a blow to the Uddhav Thackeray wing of the Shiv Sena, the Election Commission of India on Saturday froze the party’s name and electoral symbol for the ensuing Andheri East assembly by-election slated for Nov 3.
The ECI ruling came amid the tussle between the Thackeray faction and the rival Eknath Shinde camp. In its 13-page interim order, the ECI said, “Neither of the two groups shall be permitted to use the symbol ‘bow and arrow’, reserved for the Shiv Sena.”
Further, the Commission said, “Neither of the two groups led by Eknathrao Sambhaji Shinde (petitioner) and the other led by Uddhav Thackeray (respondent) be permitted to use the name of the party.”
The ECI said Both groups “shall be known by such names as they may choose for their respective groups, including, if they so desire, linkage with their parent party Shivsena, and both groups shall also be allotted such different symbols as they may choose from the list of free symbols notified by the Election Commission for the purposes of the current by-elections.”
The ECI directed both groups to furnish latest by 1pm on Oct 10 “the names of their groups which may be recognised by the Commission and to this end, give three options in order of preference, any one of which may be approved by the Commission.”
The ECI also asked the groups to submit the symbols which may be allowed to the candidates set up, if any, by the respective groups. They may indicate the names of three free symbols, in the order of preference, any one of which may be allotted to their candidates by the Commission.
The Andheri East by-election was necessitated by the death of Shiv Sena legislator Ramesh Latke. The Thackeray faction, supported by the NCP and the Congress, is nominating Rutuja Latke in the by-poll while the BJP will field former corporator Murji Patel, who contested as an independent supported by the BJP in 2019 but lost to Latke.
Shinde group spokesperson and former Thane Mayor Naresh Mhaske said the ECI had been neutral. “We want the bow and arrow as our symbol,” he said. “We are consulting legal experts. Our fight will continue.”
Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai, on the other hand, said the decision was unexpected and unimaginable. “The EC is a quasi-judicial authority. It is one of the pillars of democracy. They have not heard the case properly. We had no chance for an argument. We are checking our legal options,” he said.
The ECI on Oct 7 had asked the Thackeray faction to furnish comments along with requisite documents latest by 2pm on Oct 7. “In case no reply is received, the Commission will take appropriate action in the matter,” it had said.
Earlier, on Oct 4, the Shinde faction requested the ECI to urgently hear its petition and allot the symbol to it before the Andheri East by-election to avoid its “misuse”.
Earlier, Mr Thackeray had asserted that the 'bow and arrow' would remain with the original party. He had said he had consulted constitutional experts who had told him there could be a split in the legislature party, but the original party stays.
"The legislature party and the original party are different entities,” he had said. “There should be no confusion over the symbol. Shiv Sainiks should rest assured that the bow and arrow will remain with us."
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