A day after the Election Commission of India (ECI) froze the use of the Shiv Sena’s bow and arrow symbol amid the ongoing struggle between the rival Sena faction led by Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, Mr. Thackeray’s ally, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, said he was not surprised by the move and stressed that it would neither weaken the Thackeray faction nor have no impact on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance.
“I am not at all surprised by this decision. I was sure that this would happen. While I do not have any proof to establish that it is being done on purpose, I had a gut feeling that this would happen,” said the NCP chief on Sunday after the poll body prohibited both factions from using the bow and arrow symbol for the upcoming Andheri East Assembly by-election.
Mr. Pawar further said that the symbol did not really matter in the long run as it was ultimately the people who decided on the mandate.
“Even I had contested on several symbols like a pair of bullocks, a charkha, the panjaa before we [NCP] were given the ‘clock’ symbol. So, it does not really matter on which symbol you contest, but that it is the people who decide on whom they want to back,” said the NCP chief.
When questioned whether the poll body had been objective in its decision, Mr. Pawar said that he could not say whether the ECI’s decision was ‘pre-planned’ or not.
At the same time, the NCP chief, considered as the ‘architect’ of the tripartite MVA coalition of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena, the NCP and the Congress, expressed confidence that the Shiv Sena would bounce back with renewed vigour despite the ECI’s decision.
“The Sena will not weaken because of the loss of the symbol. In fact, it will rebound with more aggression embodied in the youth of the party,” Mr. Pawar said.
The NCP chief also said that the ECI’s decision would have scarce impact on the Andheri by-poll too, given that both the NCP and the Congress are supporting the candidate fielded by the Thackeray-led Sena faction.
Incidentally, the Sena had contested local and Assembly elections on several symbols like the sword and the shield and the railway engine in the past before being registered for the iconic bow and arrow symbol in 1989.