Maharashtra politics heated up following the Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday not to stop the Election Commission (EC) from deciding on an application filed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led group to be recognised as the real Shiv Sena and be allowed to use the party’s election symbol “bow and arrow”. The apex court rejected the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena group’s petition that had sought a stay on the EC proceedings over the Shinde group’s plea.
The top court’s decision came as a shot in the arm to the Shinde-led rebel Sena faction, which was jolted last week when the Bombay High Court rejected its plea and allowed the Uddhav Sena to hold its traditional Dusshera rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
Reflecting the jubilant mood of the Shinde camp, its cabinet minister Deepak Kesarkar said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is a firm reply to Uddhav Thackeray Sena which wanted to stop the EC from taking up the case on the party’s symbol.”
Reeling under the setback, the Uddhav Sena sought to put up a brave face, saying it was working on presenting its case before the EC and was hopeful that it would emerge victorious.
The party’s leader Aaditya Thackeray said that they are prepared for the EC hearing, claiming that this was not a jolt or relief to anyone as the matter has just shifted from the top court to the EC.
The BJP, which formed the government in collaboration with Shinde Sena three moths ago after toppling the previous Uddhav-led MVA government, adopted a “wait and watch” stance, indicating that the battle between the two Senas was far from over and that nothing could be predicted with certainty at this stage. The saffron party pointed out that the proceedings before the EC would be a protracted one as both the Uddhav and Shinde factions would be allowed to present their cases with evidence.
Even as the Shinde and Uddhav camps engaged in a war of words following the top court’s order, the BJP remained cautious. Maharashtra BJP general secretary Shrikant Bharatiya said, “We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. The court has given nod to the Election Commission to decide on the Shiv Sena’s symbol. We are confident and hope that the EC will take the right decision.”
An MVA ally NCP’s state president Jayant Patil said, “We will have to wait for the final outcome.”
The Shiv Sena was founded by Bal Thackeray on June 19, 1966, which was allotted the symbol “bow and arrow”. Following the demise of Bal Thackeray in 2012, his son Uddhav took over as the Sena president.
On June 20 this year, Shinde raised a banner of revolt against the Uddhav Sena and MVA government, which split the Sena. Of the total 55 Sena MLAs, 40 MLAs switched to the Shinde camp. Twelve of the total 18 Sena Lok Sabha MPs also shifted to the Shinde group.
Both the factions subsequently took their battle to the courts and the EC, with each faction asserting itself as the “real” Sena while staking claim over the party’s symbol.
With the ball now in the EC’s court, political experts say that the poll body would either give the party’s symbol to one of the two Senas or it may choose to “freeze” it.
According to a BJP strategist, “There is a possibility that the Shiv Sena’s original symbol bow and arrow may be frozen,” adding that this probability arises from past instances.
Citing one such example, he said, “In 1969, Indira Gandhi formed her own party Congress (R). She wanted to use the party’s original symbol which was a pair of bullocks. But Congress (O) appealed against it. As a result she had to take up a new symbol of cow and calf. Again post Emergency, Indira Gandhi formed a separate party Congress (I). She had to give up the cow and calf symbol. She then settled for hand symbol.”
Observers also cited a recent instance when the EC decided to freeze the symbol of the Ram Vilas Paswan-founded Lok Janashakti Party following a tussle over it between the factions led by late Ram Vilas’s son Chirag Paswan and his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras.