It is Shiv Sena in the ruling side of the legislature being countered by the Sena on Opposition benches. As both groups claimed to be original and no side approached the Speaker seeking status of a different group, the Assembly on Wednesday witnessed scenes where 40 Sena MLAs sat on the right side of the Speaker while remaining 15 on his left side, as part of the Opposition.
Sunil Prabhu, who has been named as a chief whip of the group of 15 MLAs who claim allegiance to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, told The Indian Express that Sena remains a single group. “We have not written to anyone asking for a different seating arrangement. We are sitting where we have been allotted seats because we are the original Shiv Sena. And, if you see, the 40 others sit close to us and the rest of the Opposition starts from us,” he said.
According to the rules of the legislature, a group leader of a legislative party writes to the Speaker’s office regarding the seating arrangement. Based on this, the office allots seats to the MLAs. Sources informed The Indian Express that the Speaker, Rahul Narvekar, has not received any representation from either of the groups claiming a separate identity. Narvekar told The Indian Express, “On record in the office of the Speaker, Shiv Sena is a ruling party…Our office has not received any representation from any side that they are a separate group so we are considering the Shiv Sena as one party in the Assembly with the total strength of 55 MLAs.”
The Shinde camp chose not to comment on the seating arrangements within the Assembly. A minister said it is better to maintain the status quo and adopt a wait-and-watch policy.
Earlier in the day, before the start of the proceedings, the Thackeray camp MLAs protested against the government on the staircase, terming it an illegal one. The tussle between the two groups was visible even inside the Assembly after Bhaskar Jadhav, another Thackeray loyalist, raised technical objections on Rural Development department Minister Girish Mahajan presenting a Bill other than the one called by Speaker Narvekar. “Why are you in a hurry? Why aren’t you following the announcement made by the Speaker? How can you present a different Bill?” asked Jadhav as Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar extended support to him.