February 21, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Election Commission’s judgment on the Shiv Sena issue was the right call. We also look at the de-militarisation possibility in J&K, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
EC’s judgment on the Shiv Sena issue: Was it the right call?
In politics, symbols and names carry a lot of water. For voters, it’s a way to identify and align. For politicians, it’s everything. India is a unique beast with two big national parties and several, sometimes hard to keep up with, regional parties. With various groups wanting their slice of the pie, parties spring up quite often.
Sometimes, factions spring up within a party. The Shiv Sena is one such example. Maharashtra politics has been relatively turbulent over the past year. The Shiv Sena is on somewhat rocky ground, with the debate raging on which is the ‘real’ Shiv Sena. The Election Commission (EC) decided in favour of the Eknath Shinde faction, allowing them to use the bow and arrow as the party symbol. This has created a rift, with some questioning the EC’s decision.
The Shiv Sena is synonymous with Maharashtra politics. Meaning the “Army of Lord Shiva”, the party was established by political cartoonist Bal Thackeray in 1966. His father, Keshav Thackeray, participated in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement post-independence. Their ideology was simple – Hindutva with steadfast Maratha nationalism. It was quite straightforward right-wing politics – regional exclusivity for Marathas and anti-immigrants.
1968 was when the party established itself electorally. It won 42 of 140 seats in the Birhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls. As the party continued to grow, so did its embrace of Hindutva. In 1989, it launched its mouthpiece Saamana. The same year, they aligned with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections. In the 1990 Assembly polls, once again aligned with the BJP, it won 52 seats to become the main opposition party.
What propelled the Sena further was the Babri Masjid demolition. Thackeray praised the loyal Shiv Sainik workers for their actions. As the years went on, its partnership with the BJP strengthened. Things took a turn in 1999. The assembly polls delivered a fractured mandate. The newly-formed NCP joined forces with Congress to form the government in Maharashtra till 2014.
Uddhav Thackeray, son of the party’s founder, came to the fore in 2003 as the party’s heir apparent, despite internal competition. Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj grew tired of the party’s internal politics. He left to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006. Frictions propped up between the Sena and BJP. In 2019, the unusual Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) between the Sena, Congress, and NCP took shape to form the government.
That alliance was rocked by one Eknath Shinde. Claiming the support of 40-50 MLAs and the support of the BJP, his rebellion broke the MVA. Then came a tussle on who claims to be the real Shiv Sena. The matter went to the courts and the EC. The Shinde camp argued the changes to the party’s constitution in 2018 were illegal. The Thackeray faction refuted the claims.
There’s also the dispute over who gets to use the party’s symbol. In October, the EC gave the flaming torch symbol to the Thackeray faction. They also got the name Shiv Sena – Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray. Now, the EC gave the name and bow and arrow symbol to the Shinde camp.
VIEW: Verdict vindicates Shinde
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the EC’s decision was based on merit. He said Shinde is leading the party based on the founder’s ideology and in his footsteps. He cited the EC’s previous rulings on cases where the percentage of votes by faction leader’s legislators was taken into account.
One of the arguments by the Thackeray faction was whether the Shinde clan had a claim right on the name and symbol. The EC said yes because an MLA being disqualified for defecting had nothing to do with their membership in a party. Shinde never wanted to form another party, so defections didn’t matter. Also, amendments to the party’s constitution by Udhav Thackeray weren’t communicated to the EC.
On the majority test, the votes received by members of the Shinde faction for the state legislature and Lok Sabha were tallied separately. Shind had the numbers, with 40 of 55 legislators and 13 of 19 Lok Sabha members. The EC previously stated the test couldn’t be applied to the party’s organisational wing since it was an appointed body under the amended constitution. Hence the focus on the legislative wing.
COUNTERVIEW: Sets a dangerous precedent
Udhav Thackeray was quick to react. He called the verdict murder of democracy and labelled the Shinde camp as thieves. The state’s turbulent politics came to a head when Shinde decided to rebel. Observers saw it as the BJP’s tacit move to wrest power. It was successful. Shinde made no secret of his intentions, saying the move was to preserve Hindutva and asked members to return to the BJP.
The EC’s decision has been called erroneous since the case between the two factions is in the Supreme Court. There, a verdict is awaited on the Speaker’s function and the expulsion of 16 rebel MLAs. The EC chose to hand over the party name and symbol to the faction that betrayed the party’s leadership. Various politicians like Sanjay Raut and others have pointed out the fallacy of the EC’s independence and their failure to uphold democracy.
The Shinde camp decided not to face an election but instead to steal power. The EC relied on the test of the majority. Since that was the case, it didn’t look into how that majority was got. Critics argue Shinde resorted to horse trading and coercion. The election of Udhav Thackeray was done by the EC’s rules and approved by all party representatives in 2018. Consider the 2017 AIADMK split. The two factions took new names and symbols. The Sena verdict dangerously deviates from precedent.
- A timeline: 50 years of Shiv Sena – The Hindu
- Why does Shinde rebellion hit so hard? A look at Shiv Sena’s history – Deccan Herald
- War Over Shiv Sena Symbol Continues: A Look At The Development Of The Political Events So Far – Outlook
- Explainer: How will the Election Commission decide which is the real Shiv Sena? – Scroll
- In ‘who is the real Shiv Sena’ battle, Supreme Court orders EC to hold tight – The Print
- EC’s move murder of democracy, will move SC: Uddhav after losing Shiv Sena name, symbol – India Today
- The Dangers Of Election Commission’s Sena Order – NDTV
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The EC’s judgment on the Shiv Sena issue is right.
b) The EC’s judgment on the Shiv Sena issue is wrong.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Tipu Sultan is back & reigning over Karnataka politics. Why BJP has resurrected him
For the Left:
Nehru & Ambedkar agreed on judges holding power after they retire – it should be allowed
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
De-militarising Kashmir (J&K) – The Union government is deliberating on a proposal to withdraw the Indian Army from Kashmir’s hinterlands in a phased way. If approved, the army will be present only on the Line of Control (LoC), and the CPRF will fill in the army’s shoes in Kashmir. This move comes three-and-a-half years after the government abrogated Article 370 and revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
Why it matters: The proposal has reportedly been under discussion for two years and is at an advanced stage due to the involvement of the Union Ministry of Defence, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, armed forces, and the J&K police. The proposal is motivated by an aim to make normalcy in Kashmir publicly visible. While the government claims violence in the valley has reduced, reports show a new trend of targeted killings since 2019.
Communities nurture nature (Kerala) – The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has amplified efforts to enforce Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) across the state to support local communities that have been conserving biodiversity for decades. If implemented, businesses using bio-resources will pay benefits ranging from 0.1% to 0.5% of the annual gross ex-factory sale of the products, and civic bodies across Kerala will receive around ₹100 crore.
Why it matters: The idea of ABS originated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Its implementation is expected to empower villagers to protect and conserve bio-reserves. The money flowing into the local bodies’ coffers will be a no-strings-attached fund so that they can use it in whichever way they like.
Adenovirus cases rise (West Bengal) – In the current wintertime, 11 children in the state have succumbed to death due to fever, colds and breathing issues that seem to be caused by Adenovirus. For prompt identification and treatment of the virus, health professionals were asked to exercise more vigilance over flu-like symptoms in children.
Why it matters: Even for previously healthy children, the Adenovirus can be a life-threatening condition, says the US National Library of Medicine. Usually, the infection can have mild to severe symptoms and spreads through contact with an infected surface. In WB, hospital beds in the paediatric department’s general intensive care unit (PICU) are scarce.
First heatwave alert (Gujarat) – On Sunday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a heatwave warning for the next two days in the state’s isolated coastal areas, specifically the Konkan and Kutch regions. It is the first heatwave warning of the season. A western disturbance will presumably impact the weather in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
Why it matters: Many cities in India are already witnessing maximum and minimum temperatures higher than normal. In the past few days, the IMD issued statements about the temperature meandering between 37 and 39 degrees celsius in the Gujarat region, implying that isolated heat waves may prevail in the state’s coastal areas.
Village without electricity (Assam) – Along the Golaghat-Wokha border that separates Assam and Nagaland is a village without basic amenities, like an electricity connection. The village is inside a Nagaland seed farm that inhabits a disputed area in Merapani. The Assam government claims that the land is under its Golaghat district, while Nagaland claims it to be part of the Wokha border.
Why it matters: The two states’ territorial dispute has ramifications for the villagers’ well-being. Since it’s a disputed area, each state has to gain the other’s consent before pursuing any development activity. Both governments have attempted to provide electricity amenities but with no success, as each state has blocked the other’s efforts. Meanwhile, villagers complain of no power connection, motorable roads or potable water.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
2 – India’s rank among countries that are worst affected by predicted births with Sickle Cell Anaemia (SCA). SCA is a genetic blood disorder most prevalent in tribal populations that reside in areas where malaria is endemic.