Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde stakes claim over Shiv Sena, sends letter to EC

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde late Tuesday night approached the Election Commission of India (ECI), staking claim over the Shiv Sena. Sources in the Election Commission said the letter was being “processed for due details”.
The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 deals with the poll body’s power to recognise parties and allot symbols. When the question of a split in a political party arises outside the legislature, paragraph 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, states: “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 desire to be heard, 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.”
When a dispute arises, the EC first examines 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 also counts the number of lawmakers and legislators in each camp.
This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties. For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
The Shiv Sena faction led by Shinde received a shot in the arm on Tuesday when Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla recognised Rahul Shewale as the party’s floor leader in the lower house. A circular from Lok Sabha Secretariat refreshed the party’s positions in the House, “consequent upon the change in leader of Shiv Sena Party in Lok Sabha”. It mentioned that Shewale will be floor leader of the 19-member party.
In the past, one of the most high-profile splits of a party before 1968 was that of the Communist Party of India in 1964. A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964, urging it to recognise them as CPI (Marxist). It provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported it. The ECI recognised the faction as CPI (M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the three states.
More recently, the Samajwadi Party witnessed a bitter split in 2017 when Akhilesh Yadav wrested control from father Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam approached the EC and said he continued to be the party president and the election symbol should remain with his faction. This was contested by the Akhilesh camp, which filed affidavits by various party office-bearers, MPs, MLAs and district presidents to claim that the majority was with the then CM. Eventually, after hearing both sides, the poll body decided to award the cycle symbol to the faction headed by Akhilesh Yadav.
In the case of AIADMK in 2017, factions led by O Panneerselvam and V K Sasikala had staked claim to the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol, following which the EC froze it in March 2017. While then chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s camp revolted against Sasikala to merge with the OPS faction, it was the unified OPS-EPS group that won the symbol in November 2017.
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