Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who is representing the Eknath Shinde faction in the Shiv Sena MLAs disqualification case, argued on Tuesday that the Maharashtra Chief Minister cannot be disqualified for leaving the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance as he was being true to his electorate.
“He was being true to the people’s verdict as Shiv Sena had fought elections against Congress and NCP (in the 2019 Maharashtra polls). The pledge to the electorate is on a higher ground than the fall of government,” said Jethmalani. He added that Eknath Shinde was in a battle of ideologies and that is why he left the MVA government.
Eknath Shinde, along with several MLAs, caused a political crisis in the state in June 2022 after they left Maharashtra and holed up in several BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat and Assam. Uddhav Thackeray, who was the Maharashtra Chief Minister at the time, resigned and the MVA government broke down.
Eknath Shinde later took oath as Maharashtra CM with Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy. Shiv Sena got split into two with the Shinde faction retaining the original name and the Uddhav Thackeray faction getting a new party name — Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).
The ongoing hearing is on the batch of petitions filed by the rival factions against each other seeking disqualification of their MLAs.
Mahesh Jethmalani argued that Uddhav Thackeray broke the alliance that existed between the BJP and the Shiv Sena before the 2019 state elections. “Uddhav broke the pre-poll alliance to become Chief Minister. It was the lure of office which led to him breaking the alliance with BJP,” he added.
He also argued that Eknath Shinde did not know he would become the Maharashtra Chief Minister when he left for Surat with the MLAs in June 2022. Jethmalani said Shinde was also willing to take Uddhav Thackeray with him and even tried to convince him.
‘UDDHAV SENA FALSIFIED SIGNATURES’
Jethmalani further said that after the MLAs left for Surat on June 21, 2022, two meetings were convened by Sunil Prabhu (Uddhav faction) as Chief Whip. These meetings were meetings of the legislative party and not the political party as Uddhav Thackeray was not present for any of the meetings, said the lawyer.
“We (Shinde faction) didn’t receive any communication for a meeting on June 21, 2022, which they say was called at the Varsha Bungalow (Chief Minister’s official residence). Uday Samant has already said that his signature on the attendance sheet was false. They don’t have any receipt saying that we received their notice. We got a notice for the meeting on June 22, 2022 to which Eknath Shinde responded to Prabhu saying that he has been removed as Chief Whip,” said Jethmalani.
‘CONSPIRING WITH BJP TO TOPPLE GOVERNMENT’: UDDHAV SENA
On the other hand, Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, representing the Uddhav faction, said the June 2022 rebellion was preplanned. He alleged that the Shinde faction conspired with the BJP for the fall of the then government.
“These MLAs travelled together and were conspiring with the BJP to topple the government in Maharashtra, which was led by the political party on whose ticket these MLAs had been elected. The following sequence of events leaves no manner of doubt about the active collusion of the MLAs with the BJP.
In Guwahati, MLAs actively colluded with the BJP to illegally topple the government led by Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra. BJP leaders met Shinde during their stay in Guwahati. We have made this clear in the arguments,” said Kamat.
The Uddhav faction also said the Shinde faction MLAs not only affronted the leadership of the political party by seeking to appoint their own group leader and chief whip, but also orchestrated the toppling of the government led by their own party.
Kamat argued that the acts of the Shinde faction MLAs amount to “voluntarily giving up membership of the political party”.
In response, the Shinde faction argued that the Uddhav faction was avoiding details because the evidence was against them.
“Whatever has been given in this case has been based on false documents. There is no evidence of service of a whip by Sunil Prabhu to the MLAs. The whip may have been issued but the MLAs didn’t get it. How will they attend the meeting? Prabhu was shown the document asking if this was a whip issued by him.
It’s an aggravated offence of forgery and perjury during a judicial hearing. A whip was issued but not dispatched, as there was no acknowledgement. Prabhu had failed to produce records to show that a whip was sent. Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak went to Surat for reconciliation and, on the other hand, issued a whip,” said Jethmalani.
Last week, the Supreme Court had granted 10 more days to Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to decide the cross-petitions filed by rival factions seeking disqualification of each other’s MLAs and extended the deadline to January 10.
In October, the top court had directed the Speaker to decide the disqualification application by December 31.