Maharashtra political crisis: Who can stake claim on party symbol?

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With the political crisis deepening in Maharashtra, the question arises as to who will claim the party symbol.

India today talked to legal expert to understand under what circumstances the Election Commission can give or take the symbol from a political party.

In case of any dispute, the Election Commission first sees the support each faction enjoys both within the party’s organisation and its legislature wing. Then it identifies the top committees and decision-making bodies within the political party and proceeds to know how many of its members or office-bearers back which faction. It then counts the number of lawmakers and legislators in each camp.

Former secretary general of Lok Sabha PDT Achary told India Today that, “The election commission has to decide which faction is the real party and after hearing both the parties in detail and evidence submitted before it before deciding on the allocation of the symbol.”

The Election Commission can find in favour of one of the factions after determining the support for it in organisation and legislative wings. It can allow the other factor to register itself as a new political party with different symbols.

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 deals with the poll body’s power to recognise parties and allot symbols. If the warring factions belong to a registered and recognised political party, paragraph 15 of the order says the EC can decide in favour of either faction or neither of them.

“When the Commission is satisfied that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party, each of whom claims to be that party, the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives, and other persons as desired to be heard can decide that one such rival section, or group, or none of such rival sections or groups, is that recognised political party and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.”

On the question of what are the legal options available for Eknath Shinde faction to form a government in Maharashtra, Achary explained, “If Eknath Shinde has to form a government, then they have to first leave the party i.e, Shiv Sena then form a new party or merge with an existing party and then prove 2/3rd majority on the floor of the house.”

“If certain people break from the party, then the anti-defection law comes into play. Under the law, whether one person defects or 100 persons defects, you are voluntary giving membership of the party and that may lead to disqualification. Shiv Sena can file a petition before the speaker of the house for the disqualification of people who have left the party,” he added.

To explain further, Achary said, “To avoid anti-defection law, merger of the party has to happen and 2/3rd members should support the merger. Then they won’t be disqualified as per the judgement by the Bombay High court. But under these circumstances, they have to merge and can’t stand independent.”

MAHARASHTRA POLITICAL CRISIS

The current political crisis was triggered by minister Eknath Shinde, who, along with several MLAs, went incommunicado after the MLC poll results. The rebel MLAs led by Shinde reached a hotel in Surat late Monday night, hours after the polls, which saw the BJP win a fifth seat despite not having enough numbers in the Assembly. Some Shiv Sena and Congress MLAs reportedly voted in favour of BJP candidates.

The Sena-led coalition, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), also comprising the NCP and the Congress, is putting up a brave front by claiming the rebels will return.

The total strength of the Maharashtra Assembly is 287 and the majority, in the event of a trust vote, is 144. The ruling coalition of Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress has 169 seats. If the MLAs led by Shinde do resign, then the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) strength will fall below the majority mark, leading to a possible collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.

Since the ‘rebellion’, Shinde has been removed from the post of legislative party leader and the rebel MLAs are currently camping at a hotel in Guwahati.

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