New Delhi, Nov 17: Putting an end to an over three-month-old battle between the two warring factions of the Janata Dal United (JD-U), the Election Commission of India (EC) on Friday granted the “Arrow” symbol to the Nitish Kumar faction.
As the victor group welcomed the poll panel’s decision and urged the “strayed section of leaders” to join back the party under Nitish Kumar’s leadership, the rival Sharad Yadav faction declared that the battle would not end here.
The EC’s decision may have ramifications over the disqualification case against party’s rebel Rajya Sabha MPs Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwer Ansari, which is being heard by Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.
In its order, the poll panel said: “The respondent group led by Nitish Kumar has demonstrated overwhelming majority support in the legislature wing as well as majority in the National Council of the party, which is the apex-level organisational body of the party.
“Accordingly, the group led by Nitish Kumar is hereby recognised as the Janata Dal-United in terms of Paragraph 15 of the symbols order.”
“Consequently, the group led by Nitish Kumar is entitled to use the reserved symbol ‘Arrow’ of the party as a recognised state party in Bihar,” it added.
Sharad Yadav, a former President of the JD-U, had broken away from Chief Minister and JD-U President Nitish Kumar after the latter joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in July-August this year.
The Election Commission referred to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Sadiq Ali vs Election Commission of India (AIR 1972 SC 187) case wherein the apex court upheld the principle of test of majority support in the organisational and legislative wings.
The Sharad Yadav faction had contended that the election of the 195 National Council members done in October 2016 and submitted to the EC on November 10, 2016 was not valid as the party’s constitution was not adhered to in the process.
It submitted that the Commission should look into the numerical strength of the National Council of the party constituted in 2013.
However, the Commission in its order pointed out that “there was no objection from the petitioner against the said list prior to the present application”.
It further said that the Commission “does not go into disputed questions regarding membership issues and validity of internal elections of the party” and that the aggrieved party could “approach appropriate party forum or competent courts for the purpose”.
“As per the Commission’s record, Nitish Kumar is the President of the party, elected in 2016, as per the information furnished by the party under Sub-section (9) of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,” the poll panel said in its order.
The Nitish Kumar faction welcomed the poll panel’s decision terming it “timely and fair” and underlined that there was “no dispute” with regard to the party’s decision to join the BJP-led NDA.
“This symbol-related decision has also exposed the petitioner’s allegation that ‘there has been dispute in the party on the decision of alliance with the NDA in Bihar’,” party’s Secretary General K.C. Tyagi said.
“It has also been clarified by this order that three is no dispute or dissatisfaction in any corner of the party,” he added.
“The party calls upon the strayed section of leaders involved and mislead by the petitioner’s group to come back to the leadership of Nitish Kumar,” Tyagi said.
The rival group’s spokesman Javed Raza, who is considered close to Sharad Yadav, said they would very soon decide the future course of action in consultation with their lawyers.
“All I would like to say at this point is that the Election Commission’s image has taken a beating with this decision. We suspect the decision has been taken hurriedly under some pressure. Our battle will continue,” Raza said.
Another rebel group leader Arun Shrivastava said the decision was “surprising” as “we had countered their (Nitish faction’s) every argument but they could not counter any of our arguments”.
He said that the group would anyway contest Gujarat elections under Chhotubhai Vasava’s leadership. Vasava was appointed the Acting President of their party by the rebel faction on September 17 this year.