Updated: July 2, 2022 7:12:37 am
The BJP is preparing to ensure that its Colaba MLA Rahul Narvekar is chosen as Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly in the election to be held on Sunday — and official recognition is granted to the rebel Shiv Sena group led by Eknath Shinde ahead of the trust vote to be held a day later.
Officials confirmed that Narvekar filed nomination papers for the Speaker’s post on Friday even as the special two-day session of the Assembly was convened from July 3 instead of July 2 as slotted earlier.
The dates were changed to provide time for members to reach Mumbai, sources said, adding that the rebel Sena MLAs are set to reach the city by Saturday. The Shiv Sena is likely to file its candidate’s nomination on Saturday.
“The Speaker of the House elections will be held on July 3. The nominations for the Speaker’s post will be accepted till 12 noon on July 2. The floor test will be conducted on July 4,” an official communique from the State Legislative Secretariat to MLAs said.
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Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MLA Suresh Prabhu approached the Supreme Court, urging it to suspend the rebel MLAs who have been served notice for disqualification — and “restrain” them “from entering” the Assembly or “participating in any proceeding relating to the House till the final adjudication of the disqualification”.
The apex court will hear the plea on July 11 along with other pending pleas on the political situation in Maharashtra, including one from the rebels against the disqualification notice.
Narvekar, 45, joined the BJP in 2019 after a 15-year stint in the Shiv Sena followed by a few years in the NCP. He quit the Sena in 2014 after being denied a berth as an MLC in the State Legislative Council. He then joined the NCP and contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully from Maval. He moved to the BJP ahead of the state elections later that year.
The BJP is the single largest party in the 287-member House with 106 MLAs, and expects its tally to go up to 123 with 17 MLAs from smaller parties and Independents. With the Shinde faction’s 50 MLAs, including 39 Sena rebels, the tally would further rise to 173, well past the halfway mark required.
“As far as the legislative process is concerned, we are confident of winning both the Speaker’s election and the trust vote,” a senior BJP functionary said.
BJP sources said that a whip issued by rebel Sena MLA Bharat Gogale will be applicable for the Shinde faction. “The Speaker election will make it clear that the mandate is in our favour. Apart from the BJP’s 106 members, the Shinde faction’s 39 MLAs will also vote for our Speaker. With Shinde as the group leader of the rebel faction, the whip of Bharat Gogawale will apply to the rebels,” said a senior BJP leader.
While the Uddhav Thackeray camp has maintained that it will legally challenge the rebel faction’s whip, BJP sources said the appointment of a whip requires the support of two-thirds of the total members.
“The Shinde faction has two-thirds majority in their party, and the right to both leadership and whip. When you appoint a chief whip, it requires the signatures of elected members. Of the total 55 Shiv Sena members, 39 are with the Shinde camp. Once they get the Speaker elected, he will give recognition to the Shinde group,” sources said.
“The Shiv Sena’s threat that it will challenge the decision in court does not worry us. The Speaker election is part of the State Legislative Assembly. It is unlikely to be contested in court once a majority is proved,” the sources said.
The Speaker’s post has been vacant for more than a year after Nana Patole resigned in February 2021, and took charge as president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Since then, Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, who was elected to the Assembly on an NCP ticket, has been in charge.
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