The Republican Party of India (RPI) on Sunday threatened an agitation if the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government renamed Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar after Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, a demand backed by its bigger partner BJP as the city’s municipal elections approach.
“The RPI is not in favour of renaming Aurangabad. The city has its own distinct cultural identity. If the Maha Vikas Aghadi government renames it, RPI will be forced to launch an indefinite agitation,” RPI president and Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said.
Aurangabad city, with a sizeable population of Dalits and Muslims, has been an RPI stronghold. The controversy over the issue has roiled the city over the last few days, with Maha vikas Aghadi partners Shiv Sena and Congress engaging in a war of words, and BJP trying to corner the Shiv Sena on this.
Acknowledging that BJP is in favour of renaming Aurangabad, Athawale said, “RPI as a political party has its own ideology and agenda. We have decided against renaming Aurangabad.”
The renaming of Aurangabad has been on the Shiv Sena’s agenda for long, and is an issue that tends to crop up around every election. While the Shiv Sena has put out that it is keen to adopt a resolution in the state Cabinet favouring the renaming, state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat had said the matter was not under consideration of the MVA government and if such a situation arose, the Congress would oppose it.
“The renaming issue is not part of the Common Minimum Programme of the MVA government,” he had said on Friday.
“The issue will lead to the downfall of the government. The differences between Congress and Shiv Sena will lead to the collapse of the government…,” Athawale said, but also made it clear that he differed with his own ally BJP on the issue.
Congress leader and PWD Minister Ashok Chavan said on Sunday, “Our concern is the development of Aurangabad. We don’t subscribe to renaming cities.”