Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, on Thursday, asserted that Uddhav Thackeray continues to be the Sena chief, even as most of its MLAs have rebelled and joined the faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
The Shiv Sena as a political party and the Sena legislature party are "two different entities", Sawant told a web portal, and claimed the "rebel group does not have recognition".
Even if two-third of the MLAs go, Uddhav Thackeray remains the Sena chief and according to law, only he is the one who can appoint leader of the legislature party, he said.
You cannot separate Thackeray and the Shiv Sena, Sawant asserted.
Rebel Shiv Sena MLA Gulabrao Patil, on Wednesday, said the faction led by CM Shinde was the real claimant of the party's 'bow and arrow' poll symbol, a claim contested by the Uddhav Thackeray-headed camp.
Patil had also said 12 of the 18 Shiv Sena MPs were supporting the Shinde-led group.
Sawant, who has been one of the leaders handling the Thackeray camp's legal front in the midst of the setback that it has been facing, said according to the anti-defection law, the "rebel MLAs have to merge their group with some another party immediately.
The rebels have not merged their group with another party. They don't have any recognition. The law says they have to merge with a political party, Sawant said.
Last month, a majority of the Sena MLAs, led by Shinde, rebelled against the party leadership, asking it to snap ties with the NCP and the Congress.
The revolt in the party led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.
Following the rebellion, Thackeray had removed Shinde as the Sena legislature party leader, and replaced him with Ajay Chaudhary. Sunil Prabhu, who was then appointed the chief whip, had called a meeting of the MLAs while the rebel group was in Guwahati.
Sawant said since the rebels had not turned up, the party moved a disqualification plea before Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal.
Zirwal had recognised Chaudhary as the Sena legislature party leader and Prabhu as the chief whip, and sought response from rebel MLAs on their disqualification plea.
The rebels then moved the Supreme Court, which will hear their pleas on July 11.
Notably, newly elected state Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar had reinstated Shinde as the Shiv Sena legislature party leader, removing Ajay Chaudhary.
Narvekar also recognised the appointment of Bharat Gogawale from the Shinde camp as the chief whip of the Sena, removing Sunil Prabhu, who belongs to the Thackeray faction.
Sawant said Narvekar recognised Shinde as the Sena legislature party leader, but he did not given any legal provision while overruling the deputy speaker's order.