Tension between the Shiv Sena and the Congress – unlikely allies in Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government in – appear to have re-emerged as the Sena’s three-decade-old campaign to rename the city of Aurangabad (named after Mughal ruler Aurangzeb) to Sambhajinagar (after Chhatrapati Shivaji’s son, whom Aurangzeb had killed) gathers pace once more.
Despite state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat this week saying his party would “strongly oppose” any such proposal, the Sena on Saturday said it was confident the issue would be resolved once all MVA members (including Sharad Pawar’s NCP) hold talks.
“This demand was (made by the) late Balasaheb Thackeray. He changed the name to Sambhajinagar… only the paper work is renaming,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, adding, “There is no rift within the MVA partners. We will sit together and solve this issue.”
The Sena also mounted a veiled attack on the opposition BJP via party mouthpiece ‘Saamna‘, declaring that the Congress’ stance had “made the BJP happy”, adding, “… Congress’s opposition (to the renaming proposal) is not new and therefore, linking it to the MVA government is foolishness.”
Just two days earlier Mr Thorat had said: “This is not a part of our Common Minimum Program and the Congress doesn’t believe in changing names. The Congress believes in development. Merely changing names will not bring development to the common man.”
The Samajwadi Party has also set out its stall to oppose the Sena’s proposal, with MLA Abu Azmi declaring: “This is just vote bank politics and nothing else.”
The opposition BJP, which till October last year was allied with the Sena, has pounced on the apparent rift, with former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis pointing out the party was raking up the issue ahead of local body elections, and that it was “drama and politics by both Shiv Sena and Congress”.
BJP MLA Ram Kadam alleged: “They have already decided… one will oppose and one will propose.”
Aurangabad will vote in civic polls in about four months from now. The city, believed to have been established in the early 16th century, has a sizeable Muslim population.
Meanwhile, on Sunday people from the city’s Maratha community took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the Congress’ opposition to the renaming proposal. Khaire Patil, the President of the Maratha Morcha, told news agency ANI that the group would rally against the Congress.
The proposal to rename Aurangabad was floated in June 1995. the city’s municipal corporation raised the issue that was then challenged by the Congress in the High Court and Supreme Court.
With input from ANI