Uddhav Thackeray-Eknath Shinde Feud Over Shiv Sena Set To Find An Echo In Maharashtra Budget Session

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Mumbai: The ongoing high-decibel political and legal battle between rival Shiv Sena groups is set to reverberate louder in the Maharashtra Legislature when its budget session begins on February 27. The Shiv Sena, led by chief minister Eknath Shinde, is ruling in favor of an Election Commission (EC) embargo, and the Uddhav Thackeray faction are locked in a bitter tussle to claim the 56-year-old party and the legacy of its founder Bal Thackeray. . On the basis of legislative majority, the Election Commission last week allotted the Shiv Sena name and ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol to the Shinde group, while recognizing the split in the party, which was rocked by a rebellion in June last year.

Moving swiftly after the Election Commission’s decision, the Shinde camp petitioned Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar and occupied the Shiv Sena Legislature Party office in the Vidhan Bhawan complex in south Mumbai. Similarly, the Shinde camp feels that the whip it issues will be binding on MLAs loyal to Thackeray. Amid Shiv Sena controversy, Narvekar on Thursday said that he has not got representation in the lower house from any group claiming to be a separate party.

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The Speaker told PTI that there is only one Shiv Sena with 55 MLAs led by Shinde and MLA Bharat Gogawale has been recognized as its chief whip. Narvekar has approved the appointment of Shinde as the leader of the legislature party. However, senior advocate and former Advocate General of Maharashtra Srihari Aney believes that since the Election Commission has recognized the split in the Shiv Sena, the Shinde camp’s whip will not apply to the pro-Thackeray MLAs.

He said the Thackeray faction would have to be recognized as a separate group in the legislature. The budget session will begin with the newly appointed Governor Ramesh Bais delivering his maiden address to the joint sitting of the state legislature. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the Finance and Planning portfolios, will present the first budget of the Shinde-led government in the Assembly on March 9. The session will end on March 25.

Shinde, who was sworn in as CM on June 30, 2022, is yet to expand his Council of Ministers, which currently has 18 members, all of cabinet rank. Nine ministers each from Shinde-led Shiv Sena and its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are part of the cabinet.

Given the strength of the state assembly of 288, Maharashtra can have a maximum of 42 ministers. Apart from the Shinde-Thackeray feud, the results of the Kasba Peth and Chinchwad assembly bypolls in Pune district, also necessitated by the death of sitting legislators, would find resonance in the legislature.

Polling on the two assembly seats won by the BJP in 2019 will be held on February 26 and the results will be declared on March 2.

The opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), consisting of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), will also try to corner the Shinde-BJP government on issues of public interest. A month-long session that is bound to be stormy.