MUMBAI: Asserting his hold over the party, Eknath Shinde wrote to Maharashtra deputy speaker Narahari Jirwal on Wednesday disputing his ouster as group leader of the Shiv Sena
legislature party. He argued that the resolution to remove him was invalid since the meeting was attended by only 16 of the 55 MLAs.
The letter said he had the backing of the majority of MLAs and would be legislature party leader. Shinde informed Jirwal that he had appointed MLA Bharat Gogawale as the party's chief whip, thus indicating that the existing whip Sunil Prabhu had been shown the door. Prabhu had on Wednesday issued a whip asking all Sena MLAs to be present for a meeting at the CM's official residence. Shinde's purported appointment of a new whip was aimed at establishing that Prabhu's summons to the MLAs was "legally invalid."
Political experts say the chief whip and legislature party leader's posts become critical in such situations. "The whip can issue directions to vote and is the party's enforcer. Members who vote against the whip can be disqualified and can also be expelled. So in the current case, it will be important to see which whip is recognised, Prabhu or Gogavale," a functionary said.
“The Shinde camp now claims to have 2/3rds of MLAs so technically the party is now the Shinde camp. And they appointed their own whip, Bharat Gogavale.The Shinde camp has given a letter signed by 34 Sena MLAs reiterating that Shinde is the legislature party leader. They have claimed that Sena’s appointment of Ajay Chaudhari as legislature party leader is illegal. But we are told that the deputy speaker has already recognised Chaudhari as the legislature party leader,” said a political observer.
Another former legislature functionary said since the MLAs in the Shinde camp have also passed a resolution and signed it saying that Chaudhari’s appointment was void as ‘being without jurisdiction’ the deputy speaker’s recognition of Chaudhari’s appointment could come under challenge. Another functionary from the Shinde camp said, “majority of the MLAs are with Shinde. If any Sena MLAs attend meetings called by Prabhu’s whip, they may be expelled. Since the legislature party leader is Eknath Shinde, his appointment of the whip may be considered as valid."