As Shinde and the Sena rebels navigate the legalities of the anti-defection law, another challenge remains: convincing the Election Commission who the real Shiv Sena is. Who will claim the party symbol? That is the question as the crisis of the state deepens.
The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allocation) Order 1968 deals with the power of the electoral body to recognize parties and allocate symbols. Where the question of a split within a political party arises outside the legislature, paragraph 15 of the Symbols Ordinance, 1968 states: “Where the Commission is satisfied…that there are sections or rival groups of a recognized political party, each of which claims to be that party, the Commission may, after considering all available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives… and other persons who wish to be heard, decide that such rival section or group or none of these rival sections or groups is that recognized political party and the decision of the Commission binds all such rival sections or groups”.
When a dispute arises, the EC first examines the support each faction enjoys, both within the party organization and its legislative wing. Next, it identifies the main committees and decision-making bodies within the political party and proceeds to determine how many of its members or leaders support which faction. It also counts the number of legislators and legislators in each camp.
This applies to disputes in recognized national and state parties. For splits within registered but unrecognized parties, the EC generally advises warring factions to resolve their differences internally or go to court.
In Maharashtra, the rebel faction claims the support of 41 MPs and will knock on the door of the EC to demand the use of the Sena symbol, “the bow and arrow”.
Where the warring factions belong to a registered and recognized political party, paragraph 15 of the Ordinance states that the EC may decide in favor of either or none of the factions.
In the past, one of the most publicized splits of a party before 1968 was that of the Communist Party of India in 1964. A splinter group approached the CIS in December 1964, urging them to recognize them as CPI (Marxist) . He provided a list of MPs and MPs from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported him. The ECI recognized the faction as CPI(M) after finding that votes obtained by MPs and MPs supporting the splinter group totaled more than 4% in the three states.
More recently, the Samajwadi party experienced a bitter split in 2017 when Akhilesh Yadav wrested control from father Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam approached the EC and said he continued to be the party’s chairman and the electoral symbol should remain with his faction. This was disputed by the Akhilesh camp, which filed affidavits from various party officials, MPs, MPs and district presidents to claim that the majority were with the then CM. Eventually, after hearing from both sides, the voting body decided to award the cycle symbol to the faction led by Akhilesh Yadav.
In the case of the AIADMK in 2017, factions led by O Panneerselvam and VK Sasikala claimed the AIADMK “two leaf” symbol, following which the EC froze it in March 2017. While Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s camp revolted against Sasikala to merge with the OPS faction, it was the unified OPS-EPS group that won the symbol in November 2017.
Last year, the EC also banned factions led by Chirag Paswan and Pashupati Kumar Paras from using the party name Lok Janshakti or its “bungalow” symbol until the dispute between the rival groups was settled by the jury.