Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) MLAs, Abu Asim Azmi (Mankhurd) and Rais Shaikh (Bhiwandi), and one of the two AIMIM MLAs, Shah Faruque Anwar (Dhule), in Maharashtra abstained from voting in the Assembly Speaker’s election Sunday in protest against the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s decision to rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad districts as Sambhaji Nagar and Dharashiv, respectively.
The BJP’s candidate Rahul Narwekar, backed by the new Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena breakaway group, won the Speaker’s election comfortably, garnering 164 votes as against the MVA’s nominee and Sena MLA Rajan Salvi’s 107 in the 287-member House.
The SP was earlier part of the MVA whose government’s bid to rename the two districts on June 29 marked its last significant decision before it fell. The move made by the SP and the AIMIM not to vote in favour of the MVA’s nominee shocked many MVA leaders.
Later, while congratulating the newly-elected Speaker Narwekar in his speech in the House, the SP leader and MLA, Abu Asim Azmi, expressed resentment over the MVA government’s last-moment renaming decision, charging that it was done “just because they were named after Muslims”.
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“We are disappointed, so we have abstained today. We supported the MVA but I am disappointed that while stepping down our respected CM Uddhav Thackeray changed the names of Aurangabad and Osmanabad. I don’t have any objections if by changing the names, there is development in the state and country, with youths getting employment and Maharashtra progressing,” Azmi said. He further said, “Instead of changing the names of old cities, build a new city, who is stopping you… there is a lot of space. Build a new city with the name of Balasaheb Thackeray… But just by changing the names of cities with Muslim names what message are you sending.”
The tomb of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is located in Aurangabad, where AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi recently visited to pay respects, which angered the local Sena unit. Chhatrapati Sambhaji was the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who fought the Mughals.
With the BJP repeatedly ridiculing the Uddhav-led Sena’s “compromised stance” on Hindutva for the sake of power through the MVA coalition, and Shinde also raking this up as the key reason for his rebellion, then CM Uddhav took the decision to rename the two districts in his last cabinet meeting.
Speaking to The Indian Express after the Speaker’s election, Azmi said, “We had extended our support to the Maha Vikas Aghadi because for the first time Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray had said that we will run a secular government along with NCP and Congress under the common minimum agenda. We had helped them to keep the BJP out of government and without expecting any posts in the government. But there was a competition recently about whose Hindutva is real (between Sena and BJP),” he said, adding that the Congress and the NCP of the MVA also kept mum on the issue. “Now they have also changed the names of Auranagabad and Osmanabad. When we are with them, they (MVA) should have discussed it with us.”
The other SP MLA, Rais Shaikh, said, “We ran the government on the Common Minimum Programme, but in the last cabinet meeting, the Shiv Sena ran it on Hindutva agenda. We have abstained from voting as BJP and Shiv Sena are on the same page now. We are with MVA if the Shiv Sena deviates from their current stand.”
The AIMIM MLA from Malegaon, Mohammed Ismail Abdul Khalique, was not present in the Assembly Sunday. He said, “I am leaving for Haj, hence I did not go to the Assembly. But my colleague abstained from the election because it is party policy. We were neutral in the formation of MVA and even now we are neutral.” His colleague Shah Faroque Anwar said, “We were upset with the change of names of Aurangabad and Osmanabad. The Shiv Sena has shown its real face.”
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