War of words between Sena and Congress continues over renaming of Aurangabad

The rift between ruling Shiv Sena and Congress seems to be widening as salvos are being fired from both the sides everyday over renaming of Aurangabad. A day after the Congress objected to referring the city as Sambhaji Nagar in government communications, Sena leader Sanjay Raut asked if using the name of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj was a crime, while chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray said there was nothing wrong in referring to the city as Sambhaji Nagar in official communication of the state government.

The row over the renaming the Marathwada city escalated after Aurangabad was referred to as Sambhaji Nagar in a tweet from the official Twitter handle of the chief minister’s office (CMO). Congress chief and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat in a series of tweets on Wednesday said that unofficial names of cities cannot be used in government documents and official correspondence. He also indirectly reminded the CM that the government was formed on common minimum programme (CMP) agreed upon by three ruling parties.

CM Thackeray stood by the government on using Sambhaji Nagar for Aurangabad in official communication and said there was nothing new to it. “It has been our old demand to rename the city. So what if the government has started referring to the city as Sambhaji Nagar? Yes, the government has been formed on the basis of CMP which has secularism at its focal point. But was Aurangzeb secular?” he said.

Reacting to the CM’s statement, Thorat said the issue would be resolved through discussion in coordination meeting between three parties. “We have been opposing the renaming, as such attempt motivated by political intention divide people. We worship Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and are not opposing naming the city after him. Our stand will be conveyed to the CM during our meeting and I am sure, it will be resolved amicably,” he said.

Raut, while speaking to reporters in Nashik, said that it was not written anywhere in CMP that decisions based on people’s sentiments cannot be taken. The Sena leader also said Congress leaders, who are opposed to the renaming, too are followers of Sambhaji.

“CMP is for food, clothing, shelter, education and development. It does not mean that the day-to-day developments and decisions on the sentiments of the people cannot be taken. This is not written in the common [minimum] programme. CMP is to run the state and the government,” he said.

He further added, “Whatever stand the chief minister has taken is correct… Is it a crime to use Sambhaji Raje’s or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s name on government Twitter [handle] or government documents? I do not think so. This is the sentiment of the people, and the government runs on people’s sentiments.”

The Sena parliamentarian also took on Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari about the delay in approving the 12 candidates for nomination to the state Legislative council in the Governor quota.

In a scathing attack, Raut said the person holding a constitutional post must uphold constitutional values. “The Constitution clearly mentions that it is mandatory to accept the recommendation regarding names submitted by the cabinet,” he said.

“Make it clear first whether you want to keep the issue pending till you topple the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) dispensation and get a government of your choice,” he said. When asked whether he was referring to the Governor or the BJP, Raut said, “It is up to you. I have said what I wanted to.”

A senior Congress minister, however, said the issue would be resolved in a coordination meeting between three parties. “Though the Shiv Sena-BJP government issued notification during their government in 1995, the subsequent Vilasrao Deshmukh government led by the Congress had scrapped it. The issue rakes up every time during civic polls in Aurangabad. The Congress is firm on its stand and has opposed the renaming since beginning. We believe that what Raut says is not the Sena’s or the chief minister’s official stand. It will be sorted out amicably soon,” the minister said.

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