Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Wednesday said Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led faction is the "original" Shiv Sena and hoped it will succeed in getting the party's poll symbol- bow and arrow.
The Republican Party of India (A) chief also said the Shinde-Fadnavis combine will successfully run the Maharashtra government for the remaining term of two-and-a-half years. Thereafter, the alliance between Mr Shinde and the BJP will win up to 200 seats in the next assembly elections in his home state.
"As many as 40 out of the 55 Shiv Sena MLAs are with Eknath Shinde, and the Shiv Sena's poll symbol 'bow and arrow' should go to the Shinde faction. I am sure he will lay the claim for the symbol because he has more than two-thirds of MLAs with him," Mr Athawale told reporters.
He said the original Shiv Sena belongs to Mr Shinde as he hails Balasaheb Thackeray as his leader.
Mr Shinde's rebellion with 39 Shiv Sena MLAs led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government last month. Mr Shinde was sworn in as the Chief Minister on June 30 with BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis as the Deputy Chief Minister.
Mr Athawale said though the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the issue, he believes that the faction with the largest number of MLAs can be officially recognised as the Shiv Sena.
"I feel both the court and the Election Commission will give the Shinde faction the status of the original Shiv Sena because he has such a large number of MLAs with him," he said.
Mr Athawale dismissed reports that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had a hand in breaking up the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. He said the rebellion had roots in the internal dissatisfaction in Shiv Sena.