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Uddhav Thackeray govt’s last major decision: The renaming of two major cities, and why

Faced with a vote of confidence set to take place on Thursday, the renaming was clearly a bid by the Sena to burnish its Hindutva credentials in what may be its last major decision in the 31-month-old Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai |
Updated: June 30, 2022 9:19:09 am
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray arrives at Sena Bhavan to attend Shiv Sena's meeting, in Mumbai, Saturday, June 25, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government Wednesday cleared a proposal to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad as Dharashiv.

Faced with a vote of confidence set to take place on Thursday, the renaming was clearly a bid by the Sena to burnish its Hindutva credentials in what may be its last major decision in the 31-month-old Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

The rebelling MLAs have over the past few days questioned the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena’s commitment to Hindutva, raising its decision to dump the BJP for more “secular” allies the Congress and NCP.

The cities picked for renaming Wednesday are also crucial. Aurangabad was one of the first major cities outside the Mumbai-Thane belt that the Sena set its eyes on, in the late 1980s. The city’s 30% Muslim population made it a fertile ground for polarisation, and soon after riots that led to the killing of over 25 people, in 1988, the Sena had won the elections to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.

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On May 8, 1988, Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray had first announced a plan to rename the city as Sambhajinagar 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 High Court by one AMC corporator, the Congress’s Mushtaq Ahmed. While the plea was dismissed by the court stating that no decision had been taken, the renaming has remained pending, and the demand resurfaces ahead of every election.

Since the MVA came to power, both the BJP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have been asking why the Sena has failed to rename the city as promised. The Congress and NCP were believed to be resisting the move.

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In March 2020, as a placatory gesture, the MVA government cleared a proposal to rename the Aurangabad airport as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport. However, this is yet to get the go-ahead from the Centre.

Aurangabad has nine Assembly constituencies, of which the Sena had won six in 2019. Only one of them, Kannad MLA Udaysingh Rajput, has remained loyal to Uddhav.

Osmanabad has four Assembly constituencies, of which the Shiv Sena had won three in 2019. Only one of the three, Osmanabad’s Kailas Ghadge, Patil has stayed back with the Uddhav-led Sena.

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As per the ancient Buddhist and Jain caves located in the area, Osmanabad was earlier known as Dharashiv, and was renamed in the 19th century. The name Osmanabad is said to have been derived either from the name of the 7th Nawab Mir Osman Ali, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, as the area was part of the Nizam’s territory, or as a tribute to Uthman, the third Caliph of Islam.

The Cabinet also cleared a proposal to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai International airport after the late D B Patil, who had led several protests of farmers and landowners in Panvel district when CIDCO had acquired land in the area in the ’70s and ’80s.

In 1984, a massive protest had led to the death of four farmers, eventually forcing the state government to bring in a scheme giving 12.5 per cent of the developed land to local farmers that, as of today, is applicable across the state.

Patil also fought for the villagers of Uran area in 2016, when JNPT acquired their land, at the time leading the protest while sitting in an ambulance at the age of 86. He died the next year.

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First published on: 29-06-2022 at 07:52:32 pm

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