RULING ALLIES Shiv Sena and Congress sparred Friday over the name of Aurangabad, where civic polls are slated to be held this year, with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray continuing to refer to the city as Sambhaji Nagar and saying that while the coalition’s agenda adheres to secularism, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb “does not fit into it”.
Responding to the Congress’s objection to him referring to Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar to honour the Maratha ruler, Thackeray told reporters: “Aurangzeb was not a secular person. While our agenda has the word secular in it, a person like Aurangazeb does not fit into it.”
Thackeray’s remarks assume significance with the Shiv Sena taking a different stance on secularism from its allies on this issue.
When it was pointed out that he had referred to Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar on his official Twitter handle over the past two days, Thackeray said: “What new thing have I done? I have done what we have been saying for over so many years and what the Shiv Sena supremo (Bal Thackeray) had said.”
The Chief Minister was speaking to reporters after a function to welcome Vasant Gite and Sunil Bagul back into the Shiv Sena from the BJP, which they had joined some time ago.
On Wednesday, Thackeray had referred to Sambhaji Nagar while announcing a Cabinet decision on Twitter about adding 165 beds and creating 360 posts in Aurangabad’s government medical college and cancer hospital. The tweet tagged Medical Education Minister and Congress leader Amit Deshmukh. On Thursday, the Chief Minister’s Twitter handle put out two tweets referring to Sambhaji Nagar.
Asked about the reference to Sambhaji Nagar, Congress leader, former chief minister and current Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan said that changing the name of Aurangabad was not a priority for his party. “This is a three-party government, the issues which are not a priority can be discussed in the coordination committee between the parties,” he said.
Chavan also invoked former prime minister A B Vajpayee to remind the Shiv Sena to honour coalition sentiments. “I vaguely remember something Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said about Ram Mandir. He had said that while it was something he wanted to do, his government did not have the majority to do it,” he said.
Congress state president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said: “It is not about Aurangzeb. We also adore Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. Our opposition is to the politics being played over the renaming of cities that creates a rift among people. We will explain our stand and convince the CM.”
Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut defended Thackeray’s tweets. “Is it a crime to use the name of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje? There is nothing wrong in using the names of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in government records and Twitter. It is public sentiment and the government functions on public sentiment,” said Raut.
Raut claimed that even the Congress leaders who are opposing the renaming of the Aurangabad are followers of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj “at heart”.