The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has spent the majority of their tenure in an intense tug-of-war as the three warring allies try to assert their dominance over the other. The latest flashpoint is the name of Aurangabad city, while Shiv Sena has stated its intention to change the name of the city to “Sambhajinagar”, the Indian National Congress has put its foot down as the grand old party has stated that it will oppose any move to rename Aurangabad.
In its propaganda outlet, Saamna, Shiv Sena reiterated Balasaheb Thackeray’s wish to rename the city of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar as the party announced that it is on its way to fulfil Balasaheb Thackeray’s wish and rename the city after the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.
Congress has strongly protested any move to rename the city with senior Congress leader and State Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat stating, “Our party does not believe in changing names of places. It was never a part of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.”
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The Maharashtra Congress Chief further added that if any such proposal comes up, the Congress will oppose it vehemently. The fact that Thorat pointed out how renaming Aurangabad wasn’t a part of the CMP, is significant and would provide the party basis to walk out of the alliance if the Sena insists on pushing through the same.
On the other hand, Chandrakant Patil, BJP’s State President said, “Renaming Aurangabad is not a political issue for us. It is a matter of faith. Even Balasaheb himself believed that the name should be changed. We are not bothered with the differences of opinion between the Congress and Shiv Sena. We want the Shiv Sena to stay true to the demand made by Balasaheb.”
Named after Mughal Emperor and tyrant, Aurangzeb who spent his last days in the city, Aurangabad is headed to civic polls later this year and will be a hotly contested election. While the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has ruled the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation for over two decades, the former’s backstabbing and the subsequent emergence of Maha Vikas Aghadi has changed things on the ground.
Owaisi’s AIMIM has become a major player in Aurangabad and the INC is on a sticky wicket as Owaisi threatens to corner a large share of the minority votes. The INC which is already finding it difficult to explain its minority electorate about the rationale behind joining hands with the Sena, if the latter were to rename the city, AIMIM would completely snatch away the grand old party’s minority voter base. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the INC is increasingly inclined to fight the civic polls alone rather than as a pre-poll alliance with the NCP and Sena.
Sena, on the other hand, is trying to rake up emotive issues in the last-ditch attempt to rekindle the party’s erstwhile Hindutva identity to prevent the BJP from emerging as runaway winners in the Aurangabad Municipal elections.
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If the Sena wants to retain its core voter base especially after it decides to ally with the NCP and INC, it has no option but to fulfil Balasaheb Thackeray’s wish and rename Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar, something which the INC would never allow as it will risk getting annihilated by Owaisi’s AIMIM in the upcoming civic polls.
This tug-of-war between Shiv Sena and INC threatens to sink the Uddhav Thackeray government with no side ready to blink with the INC perhaps for the first time putting its foot down in Maharashtra.