Going by the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) understanding of the situation, the Eknath Shinde faction is the true representative of the Shiv Sena. On February 17 the ECI officially allotted the name Shiv Sena and also the party’s bow and arrow symbol to this, originally breakaway, Eknath Shinde faction. This virtually recognises it as the original party founded by Balasaheb Thackerey.
The Commission said that it had based its decision on a “test on majority” as the group of MLAs supporting the Eknath Shinde group had got nearly 76% of the votes polled for the 55 winning Shiv Sena candidates in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly Elections, while the Uddhav Thackeray faction got only 23.5% of votes.
“The party name Shiv Sena and the Party symbol Bow and Arrow will be retained by the petitioner (Eknath Shinde) faction,” the EC ruled in a detailed 78-page order.
The two factions have been locked in a fight over the party’s name and symbol since last June when Shinde walked out of Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance with 40 MLAs in a high-voltage revolt.
Shinde then became the Chief Minister with the support of the BJP. Before the Election Commission, his faction claimed the support of 40 of the Shiv Sena’s 56 MLAs and 13 of the 18 Members of the Lok Sabha.
In November 2022, the commission had frozen the bow and arrow symbol of the Shiv Sena and had allotted the ‘Two Swords and Shield symbol’ to the Eknath Shinde faction and the ‘flaming torch’ ( mashaal) symbol to the Uddhav Thackeray faction for the bypolls in the Andheri East assembly constituency.
In its order on Friday, the commission froze the party name ‘Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena’ and the symbol ‘Two Swords and a Shield’ previously allotted to the Eknath Shinde faction. It also asked the Uddhav Thackeray faction to continue with the ‘Flaming Torch’ symbol.
In scathing observations, the Election Commission said that the party constitution, which the Uddhav Thackeray faction had used to claim the symbol and name, was “undemocratic”.
“To put it in a nutshell, the party constitution envisages the President nominating the Electoral College that is to elect him. This goes against the spirit of democracy and negates the very purpose for which the entire exercise was carried out,” the Commission said.