Magic number of 37 MLAs will only work if they merge with BJP: P.D.T. Acharya on Maha crisis

The political upheaval in Maharashtra is becoming intense, with each passing day — the rebel group led by minister Eknath Shinde has submitted a list of his 37 MLAs to Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal.

The list has also attached two resolutions: Shinde continues to be the chief of Shiv Sena Legislative Party, and MLA Bharat Gogavale has been appointed new Chief Whip. The group claimed the support of 40 MLAs plus a dozen independents and members of smaller parties on Friday.

However, talking to IANS, former Lok Sabha Secretary General P.D.T. Acharya said: “As far as the magic number (two-thirds of the members of the legislature party)… if the group of 37 MLAs decide to merge with the BJP in Maharashtra, the magic will work. If not, then the magic will be lost and they are liable to be disqualified. Only a merger with the BJP will save them (from the anti-defection law).”

Acharya said for a merger there are two conditions: Shiv Sena, the original party merges with the BJP, secondly, the two-thirds of the MLAs agree to the merger. He clarified that 37 MLAs cannot function as a group.

On Shinde’s claim for being the real Shiv Sena, Acharya said: “Claim for being the real Shiv Sena will be decided by the Election Commission… EC will decide which faction is the Shiv Sena.”

He added that if the parent party, Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray decides to merge with the BJP with the support of two-third MLAs, then the merger will go through.

Recently, a Bombay High Court judgment said when two-third of the MLAs of a political party merge with another political party, then it is deemed that two political parties have merged. Acharya said this ruling is against the law and did not agree with the high court’s reasoning.

In the ongoing Maharashtra political crisis, the rebel group hasn’t announced a merger with another party so far, therefore they are not totally shielded from the anti-defection law.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is an ally of the Shiv Sena in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, had said a floor test will decide who has majority, as he expressed confidence in the MVA.

Acharya said if the government falls on the floor of the House, then the Governor will ask the opposition leader if he is in a position to form a government.

According to the paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule, a member will be disqualified on the ground of defection if: he has voluntarily given up his membership of a political party and if he votes or abstains from voting in House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs.

Acharya added that Thackeray had called for a meeting of the party and all the members of the party were requested to join the meeting, which included rebel MLAs, who were elected on a Shiv Sena ticket.

He said this is a crucial meeting and if these rebel MLAs did not attend the meeting, then the Shiv Sena can take the ground that they have voluntarily given up party’s membership, which could be one of the grounds of disqualification.

Acharya reiterated that the magic number of 37 MLAs can only work, if they merge with the BJP.

The Shiv Sena in Mumbai submitted a list of 12 MLAs, including Shinde, to Zirwal, demanding their disqualification late on Wednesday. Party MP Arvind Sawant said that the disqualification has been sought for flouting the Sena’s whip to attend a meeting of party legislators.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in)

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