Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant played down the choice of a new Chief Whip in Lok Sabha -- viewed largely as a precautionary measure to prevent a replay of the split that took place in the assembly. He said the earlier whip Bhawna Gawli, had concerns about being on the radar of the Enforcement Directorate.
"She spoke of joining the BJP. She was not attending meetings. So we had to have someone," Mr Sawant told NDTV in an exclusive interview when asked about the naming of Ranjan Vichare as the new Whip.
Asked if there was no concern about MPs changing camp, he said, "You know his (Eknath Shinde's) son is an MP. Is he going to join his father or remain with Uddhav Thackeray ji? Udhav Thackeray ji knows certain people. We do. We are accepting this challenge".
"The day Uddhavji left Varsha (the Chief Minister's official residence), the entire Maharashtra cried. That is the asset of Shiv Sena. They believe in Uddhav ji, (party founder) Balasehab Thackeray and the Shiv Sena. They do not believe in any faction," Mr Sawant told NDTV, reiterating that the current crisis was just a split in the legislative party and not in the Shiv Sena.
What he called the split in the legislative party, however, has percolated deeper, with 66 former councillors in Thane declaring support for Eknath Shinde today. After the Mumbai civic body Brihanmumbai Corporation,
Thane is the largest and most prestigious civic body in Maharashtra dominated by the Shiv Sena. It is also, however, the backyard of new Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
Lashing out at the BJP and the faction led by the new Chief Minister, Mr Sawant accused them of making a "mockery of the constitution" by orchestrating a split in the legislative party and forming a government without merging with the BJP.
"Please go through the details of the laws. The constitution is in crisis. They have violated all the provisions of the law," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution disqualifies defectors from the membership of legislative bodies, but certain exemptions have been granted in its Paragraph 4, which reads: "Disqualification on ground of defection not to apply in case of merger. (1) A member of a House shall not be disqualified… where his original political party merges with another political party and he claims that he and any other members of his original political party: (a) have become members of such other political party or, as the case may be, of a new political party formed by such merger; or (b) have not accepted the merger and opted to function as a separate group….
"(2)… The merger of the original political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if, and only if, not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger."
The sub-section (2) has often been interpreted as -- if two-thirds of a party's lawmakers defect and join another party, they would escape disqualification. This has been upheld by the High Court in Goa.
But critics say the whole of paragraph 4 has been badly drafted and leaves loopholes for horse-trading -- which is just what the law intended to stop.
Now with Eknath Shinde allying with the BJP to form a new government without a merger, the Team Thackeray has approached the Supreme Court, claiming they have violated the Anti-Defection law.
The court will hear the matter next on July 11.