Uddhav takes the EC’s Sena order to court.

Uddhav Thackeray petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to challenge an Election Commission of India (ECI) order that awarded the Shiv Sena name and its iconic bow-and-arrow symbol to a rival faction led by Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, whose camp earlier in the day seized the party’s office in the state legislative assembly, intensifying the battle for Bal Thackeray’s legacy.

In a plea to the Supreme Court, Thackeray said that the Election Commission failed to act as a neutral arbitrator in the quarrel between the two factions, and that its order dealt with issues directly related to a group of cases being heard by the Supreme Court. The court addressed the petition for early listing, but refused to issue an order. Later in the day, he also targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shinde’s ally, and stated that he had received calls from political leaders from throughout the nation after the EC’s judgement was revealed last week.

“I have had everything taken from me. The name and emblem of our party have been stolen, but Thackeray’s name cannot be,” he stated at the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar, Mumbai.

Sena legislators assumed control of the party office in the legislature to begin the day. Prior to Friday, the premises belonged to the Thackeray faction. “Because ECI has recognised us as the Shiv Sena, this office is now ours,” claimed Bharat Gogawale, chief whip of the Shiv Sena.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) ruled on Friday that Shinde’s faction will inherit the original party’s name and symbol, ending an eight-month feud between the two leaders over control of the regional party that suffered a vertical split last year when Shinde and 39 other legislators left the Thackeray-led party and joined the BJP to form the government.

The order was denounced by Thackeray, who criticised the EC and vowed to challenge it in the highest court. Shinde referred to it as a democratic victory. The two leaders will compete in two crucial assembly byelections later this month and the municipal elections set for Mumbai later this year.

Thackeray told reporters that the EC’s judgement was incorrect and that the supreme court was the last hope. “What the BJP did to us today is something they can do to anyone.” If this continues, there will be no democracy or elections in the country after 2024,” he added, accusing the ruling party of eroding the country’s institutions.

“There is no instance in which the party name and symbol were provided straight to one faction… Why did the EC need to make its decision so quickly? said the former chief minister. He reported receiving calls from the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, Sharad Pawar, the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, and many more politicians who support him.

When asked about the Shinde faction acquiring several Shiv Sena properties, he responded, “I defy them to cease using my father’s name and image.” Let him post a picture of his father, then solicit votes.” Thackeray stated that the committee had already granted his camp a distinct name and symbol, namely the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray). This suggests that EC has already acknowledged our independent existence, he said.

Gogawale and other Shinde loyalist lawmakers met with speaker Rahul Narwekar on Monday morning and assumed control of the Shiv Sena party headquarters. The office currently filled with posters of Uddhav and his son Aaditya Thackeray will soon include images of Shinde, his mentor Anand Dighe, and Bal Thackeray, according to a lawmaker who accompanied Gogawale.

The animosity went even BMC. Afraid that Shinde’s men would seize control of the BMC party office, Thackeray’s former corporators hurried to the municipal headquarters, led by former mayor Vishakha Raut. They yelled slogans and arrived carrying tomatoes. Now, the body is administered by an administrator.

On Monday, Thackeray met with close associates at the Shiv Sena Bhavan. As well as district-level leaders, party leaders Sanjay Raut, Subhash Desai, Anil Desai, and Anil Parab were present. The Bhavan is owned by the Shivai trust, which is under the authority of the Thackeray family, and hence continues under their control.

In its order, ECI adhered to the method outlined in a 1971 Supreme Court decision, which states that such issues must be decided using a triple test. ECI determined that the first two benchmarks produced inconclusive results. The first criteria – aims of the party constitution — was declared inappropriate because the Shiv Sena’s 2018 constitution was regarded undemocratic and consolidated power in the hands of a few. The second criteria, that of the majority in the party’s organisational body, was likewise disregarded because neither side gave reliable information on the composition of internal bodies, and no conclusive or adequate results could be determined.

Hence, ECI relied on the third criterion, the legislative majority test. In this instance, the polling body discovered that forty of the legislative assembly’s fifty-five members supported the Shinde faction, which corresponded to 76% of the total votes garnered by the united party in the 2019 assembly elections. In addition, thirteen of the party’s eighteen Lok Sabha members supported Shinde, representing 73% of the total votes cast in the 2019 general elections.

In his plea, however, Thackeray contested this. He stated that the Sena constitution recognised the Pratinidhi Sabha as the supreme representative body of the party, and that 160 of the 200 members of the Pratinidhi Sabha supported his candidature. “The Election Commission has failed to discharge its duties as a neutral arbitrator of disputes under paragraph 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 and has acted in a manner undermining its constitutional status,” stated the appeal filed by senior advocate Devadatt Kamat and filed by advocate Amit Anand Tiwari.

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