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Maha Assembly gets new Speaker as Narvekar cruises through poll

Maha Assembly gets new Speaker as Narvekar cruises through poll
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Mumbai: Rahul Narvekar of the BJP was on Sunday elected Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly during the first day of its special session. Hours after being elected, Narveakar removed Shiv Sena MLA Ajay Chaudhary as the legislative party leader and reinstates Eknath Shinde. He also recognised the appointment of Bharat Gogawale from the Shinde camp as the chief whip of the Sena, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Thackeray faction. The Shiv Sena said the decision will be challenged in court.

The development comes as a major setback to the Thackeray faction comprising 16 MLAs who will be bound by the whip to be issued by Gogawale for Monday's trust vote.

If these 16 MLAs refuse to follow the whip, they may face disqualification.

Reacting to the development, Shiv Sena chief spokesperson and MP Arvind Sawant said they will challenge this "unconstitutional" decision in court.

Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha P D T Acharya has given directives that the party leader (chief) has the right to appoint the group leader of the legislative unit of that party. How can you say that (Eknath Shinde) is the (legislative) party leader?"

We will challenge this decision in court. This is highly unfortunate. The decision is taken on Sunday late night which speaks volumes about how it must have been taken, said Sawant.

He alleged that the decision amounts to trampling the Constitution and democratic norms. "The BJP is marching towards autocracy, Sawant added.

Ousted Shiv Sena group leader Ajay Chaudhary said the new Speaker did not even conduct any hearing over the objections of both sides.

"When my name was proposed for the Shiv Sena group leader's post, it was signed by Shiv Sena MLAs Dada Bhuse and Sanjay Rathod. They both later joined the Shinde camp. How can the speaker ignore these facts? When my appointment was recognised by acting speaker Narhari Zirwal, how come the newly-appointed speaker Rahul Narvekar can intervene?" he asked.

Earlier, Narvekar, who polled 164 votes, defeated Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena candidate Rajan Salvi, who got 107 votes.

The Speaker's post was lying vacant since February last year after Nana Patole of the Congress resigned.

Narvekar (45) is the youngest ever Assembly Speaker in the country, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

His father-in-law Ramraje Naik of NCP is the chairperson of the Legislative Council.

The two-day special session of the 288-member House got underway in the Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai at 11 am on Sunday. The Eknath Shinde-led government will face a floor test in the Assembly on Monday.

The Assembly has one vacancy due to the death of Sena's Ramesh Latke.

NCP legislator Narhari Zirwal could not vote as he is the deputy speaker.

After the vote count, Zirwal said, Some Shiv Sena MLAs voted against the party whip. Its recording should be verified and necessary action should be taken against them.

Out of the 287 legislators, 271 voted, while three MLAs - Rais Shaikh, Abu Azmi (both of the Samajwadi Party) and Shah Farukh (AIMIM) - abstained from voting.

As many as 12 MLAs did not attend the Speaker's election in the House.

Senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra minister Balasaheb Thorat, in a statement on the floor of the House while congratulating Narvekar, said, "The Speaker's election took place in a transparent way. This is what we had been demanding with the governor for quite some time. It seems the governor was sleeping for one-and-a-half years.

Earlier this year, leaders of the then ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) had urged Koshyari to approve the schedule for the Assembly Speaker's election during the budget session (in March).

Before it, in a previous legislature session, the then MVA government had amended the existing rules to facilitate the Speaker's election through a voice vote. The governor had described the decision as unconstitutional and sought legal opinion.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena factions led by Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray separately claimed that they had sealed the Sena legislative party office in the Vidhan Bhavan here ahead of the special session.

A white paper was stuck with plastic tape on the closed doors of the Sena legislative party office, with a message in Marathi written on it saying, "The office is closed as per instructions of the Shiv Sena legislative party.

Earlier in the day, a source in the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde camp had claimed that they had sealed the legislative party office.

Speaking in the evening, Shiv Sena chief spokesperson and MP Arvind Sawant said, Some reports are claiming that the keys of the Shiv Sena legislative party office are with Eknath Shinde. These reports are false. We will open the office tomorrow. When contacted, the sources in the Shinde camp said "let's see".

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