With the Shiv Sena all set to tie up with the Republican Party of India (RPI), Sena chief Bal Thackeray sought to assuage the hurt feelings of the Dalit community saying he has never opposed the renaming of the famed Marathwada university after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.
In a press note issued to the media, Thackeray blamed the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine of spreading misinformation on the issue. “I have never opposed the renaming. I had suggested that the name Marathwada be retained and Dr Ambedkar’s name be added to it,” said Thackeray. He said the name could have been Dr Ambedkar Marathwada University.
He claimed to have given this suggestion at a luncheon meeting in the ‘90s with R S Gawai, who heads a faction of the Republican Party of India, which was liked by both Gawai and Sharad Pawar, the then chief minister of Maharashtra. “Both had endorsed the suggestion and appreciated it,” said Thackeray.
He said that Marathwada had a glorious history, as it was the Marathwada Mukti Sangram that fought against the Nizam rule.
The rebuttal came after senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal criticised the current bonhomie between Sena and RPI calling it opportunistic. He recalled Thackeray’s opposition to both the renaming as well as reservations. In 1994, the Congress government led by Sharad Pawar had gone ahead with the renaming, unmindful of the Sena’s opposition.
Currently, the Sena is wooing the RPI faction led by Ramdas Athavale to neutralise the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has severely damaged it by splitting its vote bank.
The first major protest would be held on June 7 where it would be a show of strength for the opposition combine.