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RS polls: Maharashtra assembly secretariat seeks clarity from ECI over voting by Sena, NCP factions

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Mumbai, Feb 13 (PTI) The Maharashtra assembly secretariat has written to the ECI seeking clarity over voting by the Shiv Sena and NCP members in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls as the rival camps of the two parties are yet to be recognised as separate entities in the House, officials said.

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In the legislative assembly, only the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar-helmed Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are registered political outfits, while their respective rival factions - Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) are not.

The electoral college for the Rajya Sabha polls is 288-member Maharashtra legislative assembly.

The biennial Rajya Sabha polls for 56 seats, including six in Maharashtra, will be held on February 27 as the tenure of incumbents will end in April.

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If these six candidates are elected unopposed, then there will be no confusion. But if there are more than six candidates in the fray, then it may give rise to confusion as the Shiv Sena and NCP are technically recognised as single entities in the House despite their split, the officials said.

Although the Election Commission of India (ECI) has given its decision on the petitions seeking name and symbol of Shiv Sena and NCP, their factions are not recognised in the assembly as separate political outfits. So it could lead to another political confusion as Shiv Sena (UBT) faction would not vote for the candidate fielded by the Shinde-led Sena.

Similar is the case with the NCP as the name and symbol is now with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar-led NCP, the EC has given only new name to the Sharad Pawar faction.

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The Sharad Pawar-led faction and the Shiv Sena (UBT) are not recognised as separate outfits by the assembly speaker.

"Both the factions of Shiv Sena and NCP are not recognised in the legislative assembly as separate entities. Hence, the state legislature has sought directives from the EC regarding it. Since the returning officers are the implementing authority, we have written to the ECI to provide clear instructions," a Vidhan Bhavan official said.

"The rules say that each party can appoint its representative and an MLA of that party needs to show the ballot paper and the vote to that representative. If it is not shown to that representative or shown to a representative of another party, then the ballot of that MLA is considered invalid," said Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of Vidhan Bhavan.

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A vote cast by undivided Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande was disqualified as he had shown it to some other representatives during the Rajya Sabha polls held in June 2022.

"There are six candidates to be elected from Maharashtra. If all the parties concur and field only six candidates, then the election will be unopposed and there will be no confusion. However, if more than six candidates remain in fray, then we will need EC's clear directives for conducting the polls," the official said.

The Shiv Sena split in June 2022 after Eknath Shinde and other MLAs rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray, while the NCP got divided in July last year after Ajit Pawar and eight other MLAs joined the Shinde-led state government. PTI ND NP

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