The Election Commission Saturday night issued an interim order freezing the ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol of the Shiv Sena, making it clear that the rival factions led by Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, each claiming to be the “real Shiv Sena” after parting ways, cannot use the symbol for the high-stakes November 3 Andheri (East) Assembly bypoll.
The EC order came days after the Supreme Court rejected the Uddhav-led Sena’s prayer to stay proceedings pending before the poll panel over a request by Shinde for recognition of his faction as the “real Shiv Sena” and permission to use the party’s ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol.
While the Shinde faction welcomed the EC decision and said the order is “based on facts”, the Uddhav faction reacted angrily.
Uddhav’s son and MLA Aaditya Thackeray, in a Twitter post, said, “The traitors have done a vile and shameless act of freezing the name and symbol of Shiv Sena. The people of Maharashtra will not tolerate this. Will fight and win! We are on the side of truth! Satyamev Jayate!”.
The Commission issued the interim order in view of the Assembly byelection as deeper examination of the contentions made and documentary evidence submitted by both sides would require time.
On Thursday, the Chief Electoral Officer of Maharashtra had sought guidance from the EC on four points, including “If candidates from both factions of Shivsena make a claim for the same election symbol bow and arrow, question of allotting symbol may arise and how to deal with this matter by Returning Officer concerned”.
Taking note of the “urgency involved with regard to use of party symbol and party name due to the schedule of the bye-elections announced,” 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 ‘Shivsena’ simpliciter” and “neither of the two groups shall also be permitted to use the symbol ‘bow & arrow’, reserved for ‘Shivsena’.”
To “cover the purpose of the current bye-elections and to continue till the final determination of the dispute in the matter”, the interim order, it said, is being given “in order to place both the rival groups on even keel and to protect their rights and interests, and going by the past precedence”.
It said “both the 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 the 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 bye-elections.”
The Commission asked both the groups to furnish by 1 pm Monday “the names of their groups by which they may be recognized by the Commission”.
The two factions have been asked to give three options in order of preference and “indicate the names of three free symbols, in the order of their preference, any one of which may be allotted to their candidates by the Commission”.
In Maharashtra, the Uddhav faction criticised the EC decision.
“This is an attack on democracy and the Constitution. Within four hours of time, the EC passed its order, that too without hearing the sides and doing any kind of verification of the claims. Just because someone has complained,
without having listened to the respondents, such a decision has been taken,” Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant told The Sunday Express.
Sena leader Manisha Kayande said, “The whole federal structure of the country will be destroyed this way. This is just the beginning. It is an alarm for the entire country and political parties. If this can happen with the Shiv Sen, it can happen with other parties too.”
The Uddhav faction said that it would still contest the Andheri bypoll with all its might and would look for an alternative symbol for its candidate.
MLC and leader Anil Parab said, “We have received the order, and accordingly we will give three names and symbols to the EC, and will contest the election using it. This is an interim order. The party chief will decide which option is to be submitted to the poll body.”
Minister Deepak Kesarkar, who belongs to the Shinde faction, said, “The decision has been taken by the EC following rules, and we are confident that in the long run we will be getting the bow-and-arrow symbol as we are the real Shiv Sena.”
Both factions are holding meetings Sunday to decide their respective course of action.
The Andheri (East) Assembly constituency fell vacant after the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke in May this year.
While the Uddhav faction has fielded Latke’s wife Rutuja. She will be up against the BJP candidate, former Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) corporator Murji Patel.