Maharashtra Polls: EC may de-recognise MNS as a state party

The party may be de-recognised as a state party as it has failed to meet the EC’s criterion of polling at least 6 per cent of the total votes cast in the state

The Assembly poll debacle following the Lok Sabha may have added insult to injury for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, but the party’s woes seem to have just begun. The debilitating blow for the MNS may be struck by the Election Commission, which could consider derecognising it as a state party following its failure to secure 6 per cent of the votes polled in the Assembly elections.

Since it first burst onto the Maharashtra political scene, the MNS, under the leadership of an aggressive Raj Thackeray, was seen as a credible alternative to the Shiv Sena. File pic
Since it first burst onto the Maharashtra political scene, the MNS, under the leadership of an aggressive Raj Thackeray, was seen as a credible alternative to the Shiv Sena. File pic

The Election Commission rules state (see box) that for a party to be recognised as a state party, it has to secure at least 6 per cent of the votes polled in an Assembly election, but the MNS, which won just one seat in the 2014 Maharashtra polls, has fallen far short of that mark, managing to get only 3.1 per cent.

Apart from the effect such a move would have on the morale of party workers and supporters, the biggest fallout would be losing its reserved election symbol a railway engine that it has had since the party’s first Assembly elections in 2009. Sources in the EC told mid-day that this won’t be done immediately and the MNS will be given some time to better its performance and regain its stature.

Speaking to mid-day, Dilipkumar Khatri, Deputy Election Officer from Mumbai Suburbs, said, “The EC takes a decision about de-recognition of recognised political parties on the basis of the votes polled and seats won by them. In case of the MNS, it may be de-recognised as it has won just one seat in the state and the percentage of the votes cast in its favour is also less than what is needed for a recognised political party.

A decision on this will be taken after studying all the factors and even after it is de-recognised, MNS will continue to be a registered state party.” The biggest difference between a registered state party and a recognised one is that the latter has a symbol reserved for it, while a registered party has to choose from a list of free symbols available with the EC. Symbols play a big role in India, where a large portion of the electorate is illiterate and recognises parties by their election symbols.

Study in contrasts
In 2009, the MNS had won 13 of the 288 seats in the Assembly elections, after which it became a recognised political party and also got a permanent symbol as it had got more than 3 per cent (9 seats) of the total seats in Maharashtra. The symbol was allotted to it after it complied with the conditions stipulated in the amended Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order.

This year, however, the MNS, which was seen as a strong alternative to the Shiv Sena for Marathi voters, had to bite the dust, winning just one seat - in Pune district’s Junnar. It polled just 16,65,033 votes, which is 3.1 per cent of the valid votes cast in the state’s 288 constituencies.

The MNS’ biggest electoral defeat has brought it face to face with an existential crisis of sorts, after even its most popular faces - Bala Nandgaonkar, Nitin Sardesai, Praveen Darekar, Shishir Shinde and Mangaesh Sangle - failed to get elected. The party also suffered a major jolt in its stronghold - Nashik - where it is in power in the municipal body. All of its three sitting MLAs lost the elections.

'Morale will ebb'
Speaking to mid-day, political analyst Surendra Jondhale said, “I am not sure whether MNS will lose its status as a recognised political party. I will have to check the rules. If it does happen, however, the MNS also faces the threat of losing the party symbol. Losing the symbol and EC recognition can have an adverse effect on the morale of party workers and even the voters.”

The rulebook states
According to the conditions stipulated in the amended Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, a party that loses its recognition shall not lose its symbol immediately, but shall be given the facility to use that symbol for some time to try and retrieve its status.

A political party shall be entitled to be recognised as a State party if:

(i) It secures at least six per cent (6%) of the valid votes polled in the State in a general election, either to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned; and

(ii) In addition, it wins at least two seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned.
OR

It wins at least three per cent (3%) of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State, or at least three seats in the Assembly, whichever is more.

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