The Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut has written to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu complaining that his seating in the Rajya Sabha has been changed to "humiliate" him and "deliberately hurt sentiment and suppress our voice". The Shiv Sena has accused the ruling BJP, its estranged ally, of shifting its seats in parliament after their acrimonious split over the Maharashtra power tussle.
"I was astonished to know that my seating position in the Rajya Sabha chamber (has been) changed from 3rd to 5th row. This decision was taken by someone deliberately to hurt Shiv Sena's sentiments and suppress our voice," wrote an upset Sanjay Raut, pointing out that he had been a senior member of the Rajya Sabha since 2004.
"I also fail to understand the reason for this unwarranted step of reallocation of seats since there is no formal announcement about removal from the NDA," said Mr Raut in the letter to Mr Naidu, who is chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He said he had been moved two rows back "intentionally to humiliate me and my party's status".
Sources in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat said the decision on changing the seats of Shiv Sena members was taken on the recommendation of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
The decision has "affected the dignity of the house", the Shiv Sena leader wrote, asking to be moved up to the first, second or third row seats so he could "raise the voice of distress of the poor people of Maharashtra effectively" in the house.
"I feel aggrieved because I strongly feel that the chairperson is above party affiliations and should take decisions in a non-partisan manner. Thus, a message seems to have been sent by changing the seating position...that it is correlated with the tussle in government formation in Maharashtra," wrote Mr Raut.
After contesting last month's Maharashtra polls with the BJP, the Shiv Sena broke away after being rebuffed over its demand for a 50:50 share in the state government, including rotational chief ministership.
On Sunday, a day before the start of the winter session of parliament, the Sena learnt that its seats had been reassigned. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena railed against the move saying the change was unceremonious and the government had not informed the party.
Arvind Sawant, who quit the central government last week, signaling the Sena's break from the BJP, was moved from the first to the third row in the Lok Sabha and the party's 17 other MPs were also assigned new seats in the opposition benches.
"Shiv Sena has opted for new seating arrangement and they are trying to tie up with the Congress. Their Minister has also resigned, so we are allotting them new seats as per the procedure," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
The Shiv Sena has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha and three members in the Rajya Sabha.