In the fight for who gets the Shiv Sena — party name, symbol and all — former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray today told the Election Commission that the faction led by Eknath Shinde cannot claim the bow-an-arrow symbol as he and other MLAs in his camp had "voluntarily quit the party".
The commission had asked Team Thackeray to respond to the claim by Eknath Shinde on the symbol for the upcoming assembly bypoll in Andheri East segment, the first such contest since Thackeray government was unseated in June.
Eknath Shinde, who became Chief Minister after the Sena mutiny backed by the BJP, has majority of the party's legislators on his side in the assembly and Parliament. His faction has even managed to get its members recognised as the Shiv Sena leaders.
But Uddhav Thackeray, who technically remains the party chief, has told the panel that the Shinde camp's legislators should not be counted because a disqualification plea against them is before the Supreme Court.
He is now gathering affidavits of support from party members — the target is over 5 lakh — to hold on to the party his father, Bal Thackeray, founded over 50 years ago. Mr Shinde, too, claims Bal Thackeray's "true legacy of Hindutva".
A court battle is on over whether the anti-defection law can unseat Mr Shinde and his MLAs. On the face of it, they have the two-third strength among party legislators to avoid disqualification.
But the Election Commission looks at the support of party units, too — hence, the affidavits.
The Shinde faction's claim to the symbol was primarily seen as a bid to deny it to the Thackeray group, and thus keep it in abeyance until a final decision on the "real" Sena is taken.
Its immediate target is the November 3 bypoll, for which Team Thackeray has fielded Rutuja Latke, widow of Ramesh Latke whose death necessitated the election.
Team Shinde is backing the candidate of ally BJP, Murji Patel, a municipal corporator.
The Congress and the NCP have decided to support the candidate of the Thackeray faction, their partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi that had come into being after Mr Thackeray broke up with the BJP "over leadership issues" after the 2018 polls.