While declaring Eknath Shinde as their group leader, Shiv Sena rebels on Thursday pledged support and vested absolute powers on him to take any decision on their behalf. At a meeting held in a five-star hotel in Guwahati, Shinde addressed the rebels to convey a message of political one-upmanship against Uddhav Thackeray’s faction of Shiv Sena.
A source in the Shinde camp told The Indian Express, “We are upbeat. Every step is being taken after proper deliberation. We are in know of each and every decision being made.” A senior rebel leader added, “Shinde has reassured all of us that we are going to be the real Sena.”
During his address to the MLAs, without naming any party, Shinde emphasised that a pan-India party and its leader who has taken Pakistan head-on has expressed solidarity with their cause.
While the Shinde camp has garnered the required number of MLAs to bypass the anti-defection rules, he, however, is set to face legal hurdles in its way of becoming the “real” Shiv Sena.
A senior official in the state secretariat said, “Under the anti-defection law, a two-third majority is required to form a separate group. The individual leader will have to prove the strength before the deputy speaker in the state legislature.”
Shinde will require the support of at least 37 MLAs to get the nod for becoming a separate group in the Maharashtra Assembly. Also, the process of forming a separate party will require filing an application before the chief election commission. Only after completing all formalities, a party will be allotted a symbol.
However, insiders cautioned that if Shinde were to stake claim over the original Shiv Sena and its symbol of bow and arrow, it will be a cumbersome process. “They will have to ensure a vertical split of the party, not only within the elected members in the Assembly but across the party’s office-bearers,” said a source.
Shinde has already been divested of his post of the Shiv Sena legislative party leader by the Thackeray camp. Maharashtra Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal has also approved the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as Shiv Sena group leader in the House replacing Shinde.
In a letter to Zirwal, Shinde had contested his ouster. He had stated that his removal from the post was invalid, as the meeting in which Choudhary was appointed was attended by only 15 to 16 members.
Shinde also wrote that he was appointing Sunil Prabhu as the chief whip of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party, replacing Bharat Gogavale.
However, an official in Vidhan Bhavan said, “We have not received any such letter from Shinde.”
A a senior BJP functionary said, “Technical glitches are expected. As a result, the next course of action will take some time. But there is no ambiguity about Maha Vikas Aghadi’s downfall.”