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BJP’s Narwekar gets 164 votes in 287-strong House; 16 MLAs absent

With the confidence motion scheduled on Monday, the newly elected Speaker granted relief to the Shinde camp by rejecting the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena legislature group leader.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre , Vallabh Ozarkar , Yogesh Naik | Mumbai |
Updated: July 4, 2022 7:14:33 am
Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar. (PTI, file)

DAYS AFTER taking over the Maharashtra government, the BJP-Shinde group alliance on Sunday passed its first test in the State Assembly with BJP MLA Rahul Narwekar winning the Speaker’s election. While Narwekar polled 164 votes, the rival candidate Rajan Salvi of Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena got 107.

Later, with the confidence motion scheduled on Monday, the newly elected Speaker granted relief to the Shinde camp by rejecting the appointment of MLA Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena legislature group leader. He also revoked the appointment of MLA Sunil Prabhu as the Shiv Sena Chief Whip. Choudhary and Prabhu are from the Thackeray camp.

Besides, the Speaker upheld the appointment in 2019 of Eknath Shinde as the Sena legislature group leader.

The latest development was communicated in a letter from the Assembly Secretariat to Shinde and Bharat Gogawale, the Chief Whip appointed by the majority rebel faction of 39 MLAs out of a total of 55 Sena MLAs in the House.

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On June 21, following the split in the Sena, the Thackeray group had replaced Shinde with Choudhary as the legislature group leader. On June 22, Shinde had sent a letter to Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, signed by 35 rebel Sena MLAs, replacing Prabhu with Gogawale as Chief Whip.

Sunday’s letter from the Secretariat, addressed to Shinde and Gogawale, was in response to the communication from the rebels.

Later, Chaudhary said: “Let them not recognise us. We will approach a larger forum for justice, the courts, and will get justice.”

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A top BJP leader said: “On Monday, the Eknath Shinde faction, which is recognised as the Shiv Sena legislature party, will issue a whip to vote in favour of the government when it faces the trust vote. When they (MLAs of the Thackeray group) disobey, they will face disqualification.”

Earlier on Sunday, eight MLAs of NCP, including Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal who presided over the poll, two of Samajwadi Party, two of AIMIM and two of Congress, were among 16 MLAs who did not cast their vote to elect the Speaker. Two ailing BJP members, Laxman Jagtap and Mukta Tilak, were absent.

Narwekar’s election paves the way for the new ruling alliance to establish its majority in the House with a current strength of 287 when Chief Minister Eknath Shinde moves the motion of confidence. Leaders in the ruling coalition said they would get more votes in the floor test.

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The assembly proceedings began at 11 am with members of the BJP, including Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and Shinde’s Sena faction entered the Assembly sporting colourful “phetas” (turbans). The poll was conducted through open ballot and voice vote, followed by a head count.

Ahead of voting, the two Sena groups issued separate whips. After the election, the Thackeray group’s leader, Choudhary, submitted a letter to Zirwal claiming that the 39 rebel Sena MLAs had disobeyed the party’s whip.

In a counter move, the rebel group’s chief whip Gogawale later submitted a letter to the newly elected Speaker Narwekar claiming that the 16 Shiv Sena MLAs with Thackeray had disobeyed the whip.

Aaditya Thackeray said: “Our whip was submitted to the Deputy Speaker, which was accepted. The MLAs (Sena rebel MLAs) have disobeyed the whip issued by Shiv Sena and we have given a letter about it to the Speaker, which has been brought on record. Before the election, we had to take the morality test (of rebel MLAs).”

The Speaker’s post had been vacant since February 4, 2021, when Nana Patole resigned to take charge as state Congress president.

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At 45, Colaba MLA Narwekar is the youngest Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly. An advocate by profession, sources said he was picked as the candidate by the BJP, “considering his ability to tackle legislative and legal complexities in the current political scenario” in the state.

Narwekar was earlier with Shiv Sena and NCP, and joined BJP ahead of the 2019 assembly elections. He is the son-in-law of NCP leader and State Legislative Council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar.

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“It is a significant post, which comes with great responsibilities. Narwekar will deliver sincerely,” Shinde said. “The Speaker’s role is sacrosanct and Narwekar is the right candidate who will do justice to the post,” Fadnavis said.

NCP’s Ajit Pawar said his party is “confident that Narwekar will do justice to the Speaker’s post”.

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First published on: 04-07-2022 at 04:00:19 am

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