Shiv Sena locks horns with Congress for leader of opposition post

Making its intention of sitting in the opposition clear after a prolonged tussle with the BJP, the Shiv Sena found out yesterday that its claim to the leader of the opposition post is also being contested

The first day of the three-day state legislature session proved to be a hectic one, especially for the Shiv Sena, which seems to be having a hard time getting anything it wants.

After threatening, cajoling and lobbying unsuccessfully with the BJP for more berths in the Narendra Modi Cabinet at the Centre and for key ministries in the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet in the state, the Sena staked claim to the leader of the opposition post in the state Assembly yesterday, making it clear that it was going to sit in the opposition.


A new war? Shiv Sena group leader Eknath Shinde (left) and Congress leaders Kalidas Kolambkar and Nitesh Rane at Vidhan Bhavan for the new Assembly’s first session yesterday. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

As the party with the largest number of MLAs — 63 — in the state after the BJP, the Sena would have expected to get the leader of opposition post easily. However, the party, which submitted its letter laying claim to the post yesterday evening, was beaten to the punch by the Congress, which had already done so in the morning.

With 42 MLAs, Congress is the third-largest party in  the state and its claim is being seen as an attempt to make the most of the simmering crisis between the former saffron allies. But, both the Sena and the Congress seemed to have forgotten legislative procedure, which states that allotting the leader of the opposition post is the prerogative of the Assembly speaker, who is yet to be elected. Also, going by established norms, the speaker offers the post to the opposition party with the highest number of MLAs, which would be the Sena if it sits in the opposition.

Sources also pointed out that the Sena letter to the principal secretary of the legislature was submitted by Uddhav Thackeray, but it should have come from Eknath Shinde, the party’s leader in the state Assembly.

The Sena’s problems had actually begun earlier in the day, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar slamming, and taking jibes at, Uddhav Thackeray for his comments on Sunday. It was, in fact, Pawar’s reiteration of support to the BJP that reportedly pushed the Sena to stake claim to the leader of opposition post.

Addressing a press conference, Pawar took Uddhav head on and issued a rebuttal of the Sena chief’s statements against the NCP on Sunday. On Uddhav’s questioning of NCP’s support to the BJP-led government in the state, Pawar said nobody should offer advice on whom his party should or shouldn’t vote for.

On Uddhav’s comment that he had coined the term saffron terror, Pawar said, “I used the term after the bomb blasts in Malegaon a few years ago. The term was used by the Congress also, but that did not prevent the Sena from supporting Congress nominees in the Presidential elections.”

Reiterating the NCP’s unconditional outside support to the BJP, Pawar also offered comfort to the party. Pointing out that P V Narasimha Rao had run a minority government, he said doing so was not only not wrong, but also an art.

BJPspeak

Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said, “Sena and BJP had fought elections separately, and while the voters brought us very close to a majority, they gave the Sena enough votes to be the principal opposition party, so it is but natural that the Sena would lay claim to the leader of opposition post.”

When Khadse was prodded about how the BJP govt would tackle the trust vote, however, he kept the party’s cards close to his chest. “I can’t tell you everything right now. We obviously have something in mind,” he said.

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