Verdict of EC on the NCP Vs. NCP Dispute

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Verdict of EC on the NCP Vs. NCP Dispute Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Fight for symbol when party splits
  • What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?
  • Background of the present case
  • News Summary: Verdict of EC on the NCP Vs. NCP Dispute
  • Basis on which EC took this decision

Why in news?

  • The Election Commission of India ruled that Ajit Pawar's faction is the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and allowed it use the party name and symbol.
  • The Symbols Order, 1968 empowers EC to decide on the claim of rival factions in case of split.

Fight for Symbol when Party splits

  • Criteria used by ECI resolve such dispute
    • The decision of the Commission is binding on all such rival sections or groups.
    • For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the ECI usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
  • Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968 empowers EC to decide on the claim of rival factions in case of split. 
  • EC decides on the issue after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing their representatives.
  • Role of Election commission of India (ECI) in such dispute
    • Such disputes are decided as per the provisions of the Symbols Order, 1968
    • This rule applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties. 
    • This symbol is frequently considered as the embodiment of the identity of the party.
    • Few examples of past splits
      • In February 2023, the EC decided on a dispute among the Shiv Sena.
      • It gave the official name of the party, as well as the ‘bow and arrow’ symbol, to the Eknath Shinde faction.
      • In October 2021, the ECI had frozen the ‘Bungalow’ election symbol of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). The LJP had split in June 2021.
      • Before that, tussles over the election symbol had been witnessed in 2017 after the Samajwadi Party (Cycle) and the AIADMK (Two leaves) split.
  • Splits in India’s political parties, over issues of leadership, are not uncommon.
  • When a prominent party splits, a tussle often ensues for its election symbol. 
  • Party split and dispute afterwards
    • Generally, the EC’s decision is based on three tests as outlined in the Sadiq Ali case. These tests include:
      • Test of Aims and Objects of the Party Constitution; 
      • Test of Party Constitution; and 
      • Test of Majority
    • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
    • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.
    • If both legislative win and organisational win are found indecisive, the ECI also freezes the symbol and asks both factions to choose a new symbol.

What happens to the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol?

  • Before 1997, EC used to recognise the party, not getting the symbol, based on the criteria fixed for recognition of parties under the Symbols Order.
    • I.e., if the breakaway party had support of sufficient MPs/MLAs as per the criteria, it was recognised by EC as National/State Party.
  • The EC in 1997 felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party.
  • These parties could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.

Background of the present case

  • After the swearing-in of Ajit Pawar as the Maharashtra Dy. CM in 2023, the leader wrote to the ECI requesting recognition of his group as the real NCP.
    • The split in NCP took place after Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP-Shiv Sena (Shinde) alliance in Maharashtra.
  • The ECI started hearing on the dispute from July 2023.
  • On February 6, 2024, the Election Commission settled the dispute between the two factions and announced its verdict in the case.

News Summary: Verdict of EC on the NCP Vs. NCP Dispute

  • The Election Commission announced that the Ajit Pawar faction is the real Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). 
  • Further, the EC also allotted the NCP symbol ‘Clock’ to the Ajit Pawar faction.
  • The EC has asked the Sharad Pawar-led-faction to claim a name for its political establishment and provide three preferences ahead of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

Basis on which EC took this decision

  • The EC said it had relied on the test of majority in the party’s legislative wing to decide the dispute.
    • According to the order, the total number of MPs, MLAs and MLCs of the NCP was 81, of which 57 had supported Ajit Pawar and 28 had supported Sharad Pawar. 
    • But, five MLAs and one Lok Sabha MP had submitted affidavits supporting both sides. 
    • Even if these six were excluded, Ajit Pawar’s faction had the majority support.
  • The EC said it had to reject the test of majority in the party’s organisational wing as the internal elections appeared to be without any foundational basis
    • It said the documents brought on record showed that the names of members of the working committee were announced by Sharad Pawar.
    • As per EC, test of majority in the organisational wing of the party cannot be an indicator of which faction enjoys support if the party is not run in a democratic manner.

Q1) What is the Election Commission of India?

The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.

Q2) Who allots the party symbol?

The party symbols are allocated by the Election Commission of India. A symbol assigned to a party designated as a national party can not be used by other parties in the country. A symbol assigned to a state party in one state can be allocated to different state party in another state.

Source: EC rules Ajit faction is real NCP, Sharad Pawar faction will go to Supreme Court | Ministry of Law and Justice | Quint | Live Mint