Maharashtra’s Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal is likely to send disqualification notices to 16 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs tomorrow, sources have said. The disqualification hearing may take place on Monday, and the rebels will have to be present in Mumbai, sources said.
The Deputy Speaker prepping to send notices means the application moved by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s team to disqualify the rebel MLAs, led by Sena leader Eknath Shinde, has been accepted.
The MLAs will have to be personally present for the hearing and presenting their case, sources said.
The Deputy Speaker has already accepted Ajay Choudhari as the Sena’s Legislature Party leader by replacing Mr Shinde. He also rejected a suggestion by the Mr Shinde camp to appoint Bharat Gogawala as the Sena’s whip.
The Sena filed to disqualify the rebel MLAs in a last-ditch attempt to save the ruling alliance. Team Thackeray is unlikely to seek more rebel MLAs for disqualification since that would bring the halfway mark down, which would benefit the BJP.
Sena’s play appears to be to go for disqualifying a few rebels to discourage the rest from facing elections, hence forcing them to return from Assam, where the BJP’s north-east election strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma is the Chief Minister.
Mr Shinde’s camp, however, has made it clear they won’t back down. After the Deputy Speaker issued notice to the rebel MLAs on the disqualification plea, two independents rose to defend the Mr Shinde camp by directly going for the Deputy Speaker – they moved a no-confidence motion against Mr Zirwal in a bid to stop the MLAs from being disqualified.
Mr Shinde, supported by the rebel MLAs, has said he would go to the Election Commission and claim the Shiv Sena as belonging to them as he has the numbers.