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BJP legislator Rahul Narwekar easily went past the majority mark with 164 votes as voting to elect the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker was held via head count. He was up against Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salvi of the Uddhav Thackeray team who got 107 votes.
A total of three MLAs - Samajwadi Party's Abu Azmi and Raees Shaikh, and AIMIM's Shah Farukh Anwar abstained from voting.
Earlier, the two Shiv Sena factions, one headed by Uddhav Thackeray and the other led by Eknath Shinde, issued whips asking the MLAs to vote for their respective Speaker candidates.
The post of Assembly Speaker had been vacant since Nana Patole of Congress resigned in February 2021 to become his party's state unit president. Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal had been officiating as the acting Speaker.
The election for the post of Assembly Speaker was crucial in view of the recent turn of events in the state. Legal experts say that the new Speaker may dismiss the disqualification proceedings against 16 Shiv Sena MLAs from the Shinde camp, including the newly sworn-in Chief Minister himself. The disqualification notices were issued to them by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal last month.
Further, if Rahul Narwekar recognises the Shinde faction as the "real" Shiv Sena, the group will not be required to merge with any other political party, experts say. Eknath Shinde has contended that he is Sena's Legislature Party Leader as he enjoys a 2/3rd majority.
The Eknath Shinde government will face the test of strength in the assembly on Monday. Mr Shinde landed in Mumbai last evening along with 50 MLAs, including 39 Sena rebels - who were staying at a Goa hotel after returning from Assam.
Eknath Shinde took charge as the Chief Minister of the state on Thursday night, while BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was elected as his Deputy.
On Friday, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray removed Mr Shinde as the party leader for indulging in "anti-party activities". The Shinde faction says it will challenge the decision as it is the "real" Sena now.
Uddhav Thackeray resigned as the Chief Minister on Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused to stay the no-trust vote in the house that was ordered by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.