Hours before the Election Commission decided to freeze the ‘bow and arrow’ symbol of the Shiv Sena for the Andheri East Assembly bypoll on November 3, the Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray, in a letter to the EC Saturday, claimed it had “the overwhelming majority in the Organisational and Legislative wing of the party as well as among the cadres/primary members of the party”.
It urged the EC to maintain status quo and not hurry the proceedings, saying there was no urgency given that the rival Eknath Shinde faction was not fielding a candidate for the Andheri (East) bypoll. It claimed that the Shinde faction was “acting as a proxy for the BJP” in the bypoll.
The Uddhav faction had been asked by the EC Friday to respond by Saturday to the Shinde faction’s claim to the Sena election symbol in view of the bypoll. In a 26-page reply to the EC, the Uddhav faction stated that its leader enjoyed the support of 14 MLAs.
Countering Shinde’s claim that he had the support of 40 MLAs, the Uddhav faction, in its reply, stated that “40 members who allege to support the petitioner have incurred disqualification and the disqualification petitions are pending”.
It submitted a chart to claim the support of 12 MLCs, and no support for Shinde. It claimed support of 7 MPs and said 12 MPs supporting Shinde have incurred disqualification and the disqualification petitions are pending. It also claimed support of 3 Rajya Sabha MPs, and none for Shinde.
The reply stated that of the 234-member party national executive, 160 supported Uddhav Thackeray. Of the 29 state chiefs of the party, it claimed the support of 18 as opposed to 11 with Shinde.
Of the 12 lakh primary members of the party, more than 10 lakh were with Uddhav while 1.66 lakh backed Shinde, the letter stated. It also claimed the support of nearly all the 2.62 lakh post holders in the organisation.
“From the above charts, it is evident that Respondent has overwhelming majority in the Organisational and Legislative wing of the party as well as among the cadres/primary members of the party,” the letter stated.
The Uddhav faction, in its response, alleged that the support of party members submitted to EC by the Shinde faction had been forged and fabricated.
It underlined that Uddhav Thackeray was still the president of the party as per its national executive and the constitution, and enjoyed majority in the organisation ranks of the Shiv Sena.
It requested the EC to maintain the status quo and not hurry the proceedings because there was no urgency given that the Shinde faction was not fielding a candidate for the Andheri (East) bypoll. It also stated that the Shinde faction was acting at the behest of the BJP.
“It appears that the Petitioner has moved this application to help BJP and the Petitioner is acting as a proxy for BJP in the current bye-elections in Andheri East. Furthermore, there is absolutely no urgency or cause for not following the proper procedure or hurrying up the proceedings denying the Respondent herein an adequate opportunity to demonstrate that it is the group led by the Respondent which has the overwhelming majority and support in the party and it is the group led by the Respondent which is the real Shiv Sena,” its reply stated.
It sought four weeks to submit over 10 lakh affidavits from the party’s primary members and 2.5 lakh membership forms which are already in Delhi.
“It is most humbly prayed that the Hon’ble Election Commission may be pleased to continue to maintain status quo till final hearing on the application under Paragraph 15 takes place, after providing adequate opportunity to lead evidence and conducting oral hearing. Also reject the Petitioner (Shinde fraction’s) petition,” it stated.
The Uddhav faction stated that the petition filed by Shinde is not maintainable because no claim to the party symbol can be made to the “exclusion of the unanimously elected, undisputed and admitted president of the party”.