The Shiv Sena Tuesday raised the issue of renaming of Aurangabad city to Sambhaji Nagar and said the state cabinet will take a decision on the matter Wednesday.
“In today’s cabinet, I have raised the issue of renaming Aurangabad city to Sambhaji Nagar. A resolution to this effect will be discussed in the next cabinet meeting that will be held on Wednesday,” minister Anil Parab said after the cabinet meeting Tuesday.
The Shiv Sena’s decision to rake up the renaming issue comes at a time when it is facing a serious political crisis with a large chunk of party MLAs having deserted the Sena. The rebel MLAs have over the past few days questioned the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s commitment to Hindutva, stating that the party is gradually being weaned away from its core ideology.
In the late 1980s, Aurangabad became one of the first major cities outside the Mumbai-Thane belt that the Sena set its eyes on, said political pundits. The city’s 30 per cent Muslim population made it fertile ground for polarisation, and soon after riots that led to the killing of over 25 people, in 1988, the Sena won the elections to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.
On May 8, 1988, Shiv Sena supremo late Balasaheb Thackeray announced the renaming of the city as Sambhaji Nagar after Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji, who was killed by Aurangzeb. In 1995, the corporation passed a resolution to do so, and the Shiv-Sena led government in the state issued a notification seeking suggestions and objections from people on this.
The notification was challenged in the Bombay High Court by then AMC Congress corporator Mushtaq Ahmed. While the plea was dismissed by the Court stating that no decision had been taken, the renaming has remained a contentious issue and resurfaces ahead of every election.
With the Shiv Sena in power, both the BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have over the past two years been criticising the Sena for its failure to rename the city. Sena’s MVA allies, the Congress and the NCP, have not been too keen on the renaming of the city.
In March 2020, the MVA government had cleared a proposal to rename the Aurangabad airport as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport. However, this has not yet got the go-ahead from the Centre.
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