New Delhi: Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Sharad Pawar-led faction suffered a major setback as the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday decided that the faction led-by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is entitled to use the party name ‘Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the symbol ‘clock’.
The EC has settled the dispute in the NCP in favour of the faction led by the petitioner Ajit Pawar by this decision.
However, the poll panel has provided the Sharad Pawar-led faction with a one-time option to claim a name for its new political formation and provide three preferences to it. The concession is to be utilized by 3 pm on Wednesday.
In an order issued by the EC, it said, “The Commission holds that the faction led by the petitioner , Ajit Anantrao Pawar is the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and is entitled to use its name and reserved symbol ‘clock’ for the purposes of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.”
The final order of the poll panel came after more than 10 hearings which were held during a period of more than six months.
On July 1, 2023, the EC received a petition dated June 30, 2023 form Ajit Pawar wherein it was submitted that “Sharad Pawar who claims to be the national president is running the party in total disregard to the Constitution and Rules of the same”.
The hearings, which had started on July 1, 2023 between the two groups, one led by Sharad Pawar, while other by Ajit Pawar saw strong legal teams from both sides including Mukul Rohatgi, Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Maninder Singh for the petitioner and Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Devdatt Kamat from the respondent.
The test of majority in the legislative wing found favour in this circumstance of the case, where both the factions have been found to be working outside the party constitution and the organizational elections, the EC said.
Taking into account the significant timeline of the elections to the six seats of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra which were notified through EC press note on 29 January, the Sharad Pawar-led faction has been given a special concession to comply with Rule 39AA of Conduct of Elections Rules 1961, which allow the authorized agents of political parties to verify as to whom an elector, who is a member of a political party has cast his vote.
The poll panel, while using its powers under Para 18 of the Symbols Order, has provided the Sharad Pawar-led faction, “a one-time option to claim a name to its new political formation and provide three preferences to the Commission”.
Going beyond the recommendations of political parties on the need to maintain transparency in internal affairs, the EC expressed hope that political parties will adopt good disclosure practices of organizational elections and internal party democracy.
In its order, the poll panel advised that perhaps the time has come for political parties to consider “voluntary wider public disclosures of the party constitution, amendments thereof, if any internal electoral steps such as publication of electoral college, dates of elections, time and venue of elections of different tiers, candidates, complaint redressal mechanisms within their organizations, and list of elected office bearers, etc”.
The poll panel further said, “Such disclosures on their websites shall keep the most valuable stakeholder of electoral democracy, that is the electorate at large duly informed.”