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Uddhav Thackeray challenges Speaker-CM meeting in SC ahead of Shiv Sena split verdict

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray has moved the Supreme Court against a meeting between Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar, just before the Speaker’s verdict on the disqualification of rival Shiv Sena MLAs. The verdict, which is expected to be delivered on Wednesday, will decide the fate of the Shinde-led government and the future of the regional party that suffered a vertical split in June 2022.

Thackeray, who was the former Chief Minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition that was toppled by Shinde’s rebellion, said that his party had filed an affidavit in the apex court on Monday, objecting to the “highly improper” meeting between the Speaker and the Chief Minister on Sunday. He said that the meeting raised doubts about the impartiality and fairness of the Speaker, who is supposed to act as a judge in the disqualification case.

“How can one expect justice if the judge himself goes to meet the accused before the judgement in the case?” Thackeray asked, speaking to the media at his residence ‘Matoshree’ in Mumbai on Tuesday. He said that the Speaker had also met the Chief Minister in October last year, after the Supreme Court had directed him to decide on the disqualification petitions within a reasonable time frame.

Thackeray also accused the Speaker of delaying the verdict and using “pressure tactics” to influence the outcome. He said that the judgement will not only affect the Shiv Sena, but also the democracy in the country. He said that his party will approach the Supreme Court again if the verdict is in favour of Shinde, who he alleged had violated the anti-defection law and the party constitution by joining hands with the BJP and the NCP (Ajit Pawar group).

The Speaker, however, defended his meeting with the Chief Minister and said that it was related to his assembly constituency and the state legislature. He said that there was no rule that prohibited him from doing other work while hearing the disqualification case. He said that he will take a decision that will give justice to the people of the state.

The disqualification case stems from the cross-petitions filed by the rival factions of the Shiv Sena, seeking to oust each other’s MLAs from the assembly. The Shinde faction, which has 35 MLAs, has claimed that the Thackeray faction, which has 21 MLAs, has voluntarily given up the membership of the party by opposing the alliance with the BJP and the NCP (Ajit Pawar group). The Thackeray faction, on the other hand, has argued that the Shinde faction has defected from the party by supporting the BJP and the NCP (Ajit Pawar group), which are the ideological opponents of the Shiv Sena.

The outcome of the case will have a significant impact on the political scenario in Maharashtra, where the Shinde-led government has a thin majority of 145 MLAs in the 288-member assembly. If the Speaker disqualifies the Shinde faction, the government will lose its majority and face the risk of collapse. If the Speaker disqualifies the Thackeray faction, the government will gain more stability and the opposition will be weakened. If the Speaker disqualifies both the factions, the assembly will be reduced to 232 members and the government will need the support of 117 MLAs to survive.

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