Shiv Sena poll symbol
The EC has allowed the Sena (UBT) to keep the flaming torch symbol till the conclusion of the Kasba Peth and Chinchwad Assembly bypolls in Pune district scheduled for February 26. Representational pic

Uddhav Thackeray loses party name, symbol in Sena vs Sena battle

In a major blow to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction, the Election Commission on Friday recognised the Eknath Shinde-led faction as the real Shiv Sena and ordered allocation of the “bow and arrow” poll symbol to it.

The order comes just prior to the February 26 bypolls in two Maharashtra Assembly constituencies – Kasba Peth and Chinchwad. This decision is a major triumph for the Shinde camp and a great setback for the Uddhav faction.

In a 78-page order on the protracted battle for control of the organisation, the Commission allowed the Uddhav Thackeray faction to keep the “flaming torch” poll symbol allocated to it till the completion of the assembly bypolls in the state.

The Commission said MLAs backing Eknath Shinde got nearly 76 per cent of votes polled in favour of the 55 winning Shiv Sena candidates in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls. The Uddhav Thackeray faction MLAs got 23.5 per cent of votes polled in favour of the winning Shiv Sena candidates, the three-member Commission said in a unanimous order.

Also read: Rival Sena factions claim Supreme Court will vindicate them

Shinde camp hails, Uddhav faction flays EC order

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde termed the Election Commission’s decision to recognise his faction as the real Shiv Sena as victory of Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology.

“This is a big day for us. We have been saying that the decision will be taken on merit. We have been saying that we are real Shiv Sena. Now, a lot of Shiv Sena (UBT) men will come to us because we have the symbol and the party name to get the winning edge,” said Sheetal Mhatre, Shinde faction spokesperson.

Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule hailed the EC’s move as the “biggest victory of democracy”. Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said, “We have been saying from day one that Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena is real Sena. Shiv Sena is a party of ideology and not of family. The ECI order has proved the same.”

On the other hand, Shiv Sena Uddhav camp spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the Election Commission has lost credibility with the order and they will now challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. He said the poll panel’s decision was on the expected lines and he did not have faith in the ECI. He termed the EC’s ruling as “murder of democracy”. “This is not justice. However, there is nothing to worry about as people are with us,” he said. “We will go in people’s court with a new symbol and raise the real Shiv Sena from the ground yet again,” he added.

Shiv Sena’s constitution undemocratic: EC

In its final order, the EC observed that the current constitution of Shiv Sena was “undemocratic”. “It has been mutilated to undemocratically appoint people from a coterie as office bearers without any election at all. Such party structures fail to inspire confidence,” it said.

“The constitution of political parties ought to provide for free, fair and transparent elections to the posts of office bearers and a further free and fair procedure for the resolution of internal disputes. These procedures ought to be difficult to amend and should be amendable only after ensuring larger support of the organisational members for the same,” the ECI said.

Also read: Maha political crisis “tough constitutional issue” to decide: Supreme Court

Tracing genesis of Sena’s internecine feud

The trouble started brewing for Uddhav Thackeray in June last year when the BJP won three of the six seats in the Rajya Sabha elections and a Sena candidate lost. On June 20, of the 10 seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections, Sena and its allies were expected to win six seats but won only five with the BJP bagging the same number of seats due to cross-voting from the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP.

Subsequently, Shinde and a few Sena MLAs went incommunicado and were later found in a Surat hotel. The number of Sena MLAs in Shinde camp kept swelling, ultimately leading to the fall of the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government. Shinde joined hands with the BJP to form a new government in Maharashtra. Shinde faction also succeeded in breaking away 40 of the 55 Sena MLAs and 13 of the 19 Sena MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Since then the two Shiv Sena factions have been staking a claim on the party’s name and the election symbol of the bow and arrow. The EC had frozen the bow and arrow symbol and had allotted two different symbols to Shinde and Uddhav factions. While Shinde faction got two swords and a shield, Uddhav faction was granted flaming torch.

(With Agency inputs)

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