Sena wants to use the renaming of Auranagabad in new civic polls?

Sambhajinagar -CM Thackeray

The way, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray referred to Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar in its tweet last week, it’s now clear that the Shiv Sena would not compromise on the issue ahead of the Aurangabad civic elections. However, the Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat strongly objected to it, saying renaming of cities was not on the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP coalition’s agenda. Thorat said the Congress was not opposed to Maratha King Sambhaji but renaming of cities creates divide.

On the other hand, the chief minister Thackeray has defended the decision saying, “What new thing have I done? I have done what we have been saying for so many years, and what the Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had said.” It was at the victory rally after the first Aurangabad civic polls in 1988 that Bal Thackeray had announced that Aurangabad would be renamed as Sambhajinagar. The city got its name Aurangabad after Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. While jusitifying the renaming, Thackeray even pointed out that Aurangazeb was not a secular ruler.

The proposal of the chief minister Thackeray to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar has also driven a wedge between ruling Maha-Vikas -Aghadi partners – the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Despite the different stands over the issue, the MVA partners are taking care not to disturb the government’s equilibrium. Efforts are being made to iron out the differences in the interest of running the coalition government for now.

However, the main reasons are that led to Thackeray to take an adamant attitude on changing the name of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar are: Forthcoming civic elections to the municipal corporations of Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur this year. Besides, elections are also to be held in two zilla parishads, 13 municipal councils and 83 nagar panchayats in the coming months. The Sena is upping its ante in view of these elections.

Moreover, to compete with old electoral partner-turned-arch rival BJP. Both the Sena and its old partner the BJP practise Hindutva politics. Their voter constituencies overlap. The BJP is a national ruling party and is more closely associated with Hindutva politics. Moreover, the BJP had started off as Sena’s junior partner in the civic, assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. But slowly and gradually, it overtook the Sena and emerged as the largest party in terms of seats won in most of these elections.

The ambitious Sena is now out to compete with the BJP in Hindutva and retrieve its lost glory. Therefore, it has resorted to ‘renaming’ politics. Besides, dominance in MVA, the Sena aims at having an upper hand over the other two coalition partners – the Congress and NCP – keeping in view the future elections and politics of the state. The renaming proposal of Aurangabad is also a test case for the Sena in that direction.

By doing so, the principal ally of the MVA government is also fulfilling Bal Thackeray’s dream. The Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had made the proposal for the first time to rename Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar. In June 1995, the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, ruled jointly by the BJP and the Sena, passed a resolution in its general body meeting to rename the city. The then Shiv Sena-BJP coalition government also issued a notification renaming the city as Sambhajinagar. However, the move was challenged by a Congress corporator before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, but was rejected. The corporator, later moved the Supreme Court where the issue is still pending.

** M Charulata

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