Maharashtra: Speaker reinstates Eknath Shinde as legislature party leader ahead of crucial floor test

Rahul Narvekar, the newly-elected Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly, has replaced Ajay Chaudhary and reinstated Chief Minister Eknath Shinde as the Shiv Sena legislature party head. Shinde was sacked from the post by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray when in the absence of a full-time Speaker, NCP’s Narhari Zirwal was the Deputy Speaker of the House.

In another important decision, Narvekar removed Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Uddhav camp, while recognising the appointment of Bharat Gogawale by the Shinde camp as the party’s chief whip. Ahead of the Speaker’s election, the party had issued two whips — one by the Uddhav camp to vote for party MLA Rajan Salvi, and the other, by the Shinde camp to vote for Narvekar.

A day ahead of the floor test, Narvekar said that the decision to remove Ajay Chaudhary was made upon looking into the legalities of the appointment after receiving a June 22 letter from the Shinde camp protesting against the Uddhav camp’s move to replace Shinde with Chaudhary.

In a huge setback, the 16 MLAs left with Uddhav Thackeray will now have to follow the Chief Whip from the Shinde camp for Monday’s trust vote.
Refusing to follow the whip can lead to the disqualification of the 16 Shiv Sena legislators. Stating that the Uddhav Thackeray faction will move court, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant called the whole process “unconstitutional.”

“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,” Sawant was quoted as saying to news agency PTI.

After being removed as the party group head, Ajay Chaudhary claimed that the Speaker did not follow any due process as no hearing was conducted. “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?” Chaudhary told PTI.

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