New Delhi: This week, Shiv Sena’s 12 out of 19 Lok Sabha members switched to the breakaway faction led by Eknath Shinde that already has the support of 40 state legislators. The top leadership of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena is in a tizzy, with Thackeray himself frequently meeting Sena’s district presidents and all prominent party members to address their dissatisfaction and hoping to regain their trust in his leadership.
However, insiders in the party claim that the Sena (Uddhav) is under the looming threat of more of its leaders leaving the party in case the party loses its symbol “bow and arrow” and the name “Shiv Sena”. According to leaders in the party, Shinde, who is contesting for the party name, will be the biggest gainer of the original Sena’s cadre if the Thackeray-led Sena loses the party symbol. At least 30% could straightaway jump to the Shinde faction and another 20% would rapidly join the BJP, a Shiv Sena leader indicated.
The Uddhav faction is hoping that the cadre will stand firmly with them. However, with defections in Sena already picking up pace, the party leaders are aware that the weak standing of the party in Parliament and legislature has destroyed the morale of its rank and file. Some have suggested a reconciliation with Shinde’s breakaway group. But other leaders who are close to Thackeray want to withstand the political storm, although party leaders are tight-lipped about the rising discord in the party. A source privy to these developments said, “The remaining MLAs have also started feeling discontented because of four top leaders who are close to Thackeray.”
Political analysts say, Thackeray has clearly stated that he doesn’t want to work with the BJP; so it would be interesting to see if he would stand by his word or initiate reconciliation with Eknath Shinde for the party name and symbol.
Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP, told The Sunday Guardian, “We, the party cadre, stand firmly behind our leader. The Election Commission has to go on the basis of what the cadre are saying, on the basis of what members are saying. One must understand that the 10th schedule is very clear, that the legislative party, parliamentary party and the political party are three different sets of parties that go into the political process. The legislative party or parliamentary party splitting does not mean the party has split and that does not become the basis. It depends on the members, where they overwhelmingly belong to.”
She further added, “We can look at the case of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s contention versus his own son, and we will have our answer—on which side did members stand, not just legislative party members, but all party members who were card bearers of a political party. We will have our answer and that is how the symbol is decided.”
However, a former researcher at the Election Commission told The Sunday Guardian, “Uddhav Thackeray doesn’t have majority anymore. Ultimately, he will need to prove the majority with respect to the members of the decision making organization of the party, and the MPs and MLAs, which he doesn’t have.”
“With the party president still being Uddhav Thackeray and majority numbers in the organisation structure and lawmakers with Eknath Shinde, ECI might as well keep the matter in abeyance like it did with the Lok Janshakti Party. There is also a possibility that both of them might get a new symbol and name separately,” the researcher said.
The researcher further added, “The only way out for Thackeray is to have majority support. And day by day, his party members are just abandoning him. As for the situation that there is right now, Eknath Shinde will definitely get the party name and symbol.”