MUMBAI: Chief whip of the Shiv Sena - Eknath Shinde faction- Bharat Gogawale has given a petition to the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker for the suspension of 16 party MLAs of the Uddhav Thackeray faction for violation of whip.
The Speaker's office has confirmed that the notice will be issued to 16 MLAs of Shiv Sena.
The petition was given after the newly-appointed Speaker appointed Gogawale as the chief whip the Shiv Sena Legislative party leader, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Uddhav Thackeray camp.
Ahead of today's crucial trust vote of the Eknath Shinde-led BJP government, the Speaker removed Shiv Sena MLA Ajay Chaudhary as the legislative party leader and reinstated Shinde in the position.
This comes after Sunday's big win where BJP's Rahul Narvekar was elected as Speaker.
The special two-day session of the State Legislative Assembly comes after a high-voltage political drama in the state where a new government led by rebel Shiv Sena MLA Shinde came to power toppling the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) regime.
Earlier on Sunday evening, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, along with his faction of Shiv Sena MLAs, held a meeting with Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MLAs, and other party leaders at a hotel in Mumbai to chalk out a strategy for the floor test.
"The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government is set to face a majority test on Monday, the second day of the special session of the legislature. What exactly will be the strategy of the government was discussed in the meeting held in the presence of all the MLAs today," sources said.
Fadnavis claimed that the Shinde government will prove its majority with 166 votes.
At present, the BJP has 106 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly and Shinde is leading 39 rebel Shiv Sena legislators and some Independents. After the death of a Shiv Sena MLA recently, the current strength of the Assembly is reduced to 287, thus the majority mark is 144.
Interestingly, amid the ongoing battle between two Shiv Sena factions led by Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray, both sides issued separate whips to the party MLAs to vote in favour of their respective candidates during the speaker's election on Sunday and later accused each other of violating them.
Speaker Rahul Narvekar has reinstated Shinde as Shiv Sena legislature party leader, removing Ajay Chaudhary.
Narvekar also recognised the appointment of Bharat Gogawale from the Shinde camp as the chief whip of the Sena, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Thackeray faction.
The trust vote will be held in the Assembly on Monday, the last day of the special two-day session of the House.
In a statement late Sunday night, Narvekar said the Maharashtra Legislature secretariat had received a letter from the Shinde-led group on June 22 objecting to his removal by Thackeray as the group leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party.
After discussing the legalities of the matter, the Speaker has rejected the appointment of Sena MLA Ajay Chaudhary as the group leader of the legislative unit of the party, a letter by Narvekar said.
The development comes as a major setback to the Thackeray faction comprising 16 MLAs who will be bound by the whip to be issued by Gogawale for the trust vote.
If these 16 MLAs refuse to follow the whip, they face disqualification.
Reacting to the development, Shiv Sena chief MP Arvind Sawant said his party will challenge this "unconstitutional" decision in court.
"Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha P D T Acharya has given directives that the party leader (chief) has the right to appoint the group leader of the legislative unit of that party. How can you say that (Eknath Shinde) is the (legislative) party leader?"
"We will challenge this decision in court. This is highly unfortunate. The decision is taken on Sunday late night which speaks volumes about how it must have been taken," said Sawant.
He alleged that the decision amounts to trampling the Constitution and democratic norms.
"The BJP is marching towards autocracy," Sawant added.
Ousted Shiv Sena group leader Ajay Chaudhary said the new Speaker did not even conduct any hearing over the objections of both sides.
"When my name was proposed for the Shiv Sena group leader's post, it was signed by Shiv Sena MLAs Dada Bhuse and Sanjay Rathod. They both later joined the Shinde camp. How can the Speaker ignore these facts? When my appointment was recognised by acting speaker Narhari Zirwal, how come the newly-appointed Speaker Rahul Narvekar can intervene?" he asked.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)