The battle between Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde for control of the Shiv Sena has moved to a new phase – both will have to provide documentary evidence to prove who would lead the party.
The Electoral Commission has asked both parties to hand over the documents by August 8, after which the constitutional body will hear the case.
Both sides will also have to issue written statements detailing their views on the intra-party dispute, which surfaced after Mr Shinde and nearly 40 MPs rioted last month and formed a new government, with the support of the BJP. Former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis has become Mr Shinde’s deputy in the new setup.
In a letter to the electoral commission, Team Shinde claimed to have the support of 40 of the 55 MPs and 12 of the 18 Lok Sabha MPs.
“… It is obvious that there is a split in the Shiv Sena, of which one group is led by Eknath Shinde and the other group is led by Uddhav Thackeray, both groups claim to be the real Shiv Sena with their leader being the presumed chairman of the Shiv Sena party,” the election commission said in the notice to both sides.
“In order to put the two rival groups on an equal footing and to protect their rights and interests, and based on past precedence, the commission ordered that the documents submitted by the rival groups be exchanged and that replies/ written submissions be invited from both groups,” the election commission said, adding that it would only move to the next stage for a “substantive hearing” after obtaining the documentary evidence and written statements.
The Shinde camp had asked the Maharashtra assembly speaker to disqualify the Thackeray team. On July 11, the Supreme Court, however, told President Rahul Narwekar not to proceed with the plea seeking the disqualification of the Thackeray team.
The Shinde camp said its Sena rivals should be disqualified for challenging the party whip in the vote of confidence and election of the president last month.
Both sides have been asked to formulate questions by July 27 for consideration by a broader Supreme Court bench, and the case would be heard on August 1.