Shiv Sena and Congress in war of words over renaming of Aurangabad
- The two allies have been at loggerhead over the issue for the last two weeks after the Sena raised thedecade-old issue to rename Aurangabad city as Sambhaji Nagar.
Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition partners Shiv Sena and Congress clashed again on Sunday over the renaming of Aurangabad city as Sambhaji Nagar
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, in his weekly column in Saamana, stated that a ‘secular’ party like Congress is not in favour of renaming because minorities would get upset, and will affect their vote bank.
It drew a sharp retort from Maharashtra Congress chief and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat who said that the Sena is worried about their votes and raked the issue ahead of civic polls in the city. The senior Congress minister also asked why the Sena did not rename the city in the last five years when they were in power.
The two allies have been at loggerhead over the issue for the last two weeks after the Sena raised thedecade-old issue to rename Aurangabad city as Sambhaji Nagar. The Congress has opposed the move with its leaders calling it an issue outside the purview of the common minimum programme (CMP) and that renaming cities will not ensure development.
On Sunday, the Sena said that if Mughal ruler Aurangzeb is dear to somebody then it's not secular behavior. Raut wrote that though Congress is against the renaming, a large section of people are of view that there should not be any sign or mark of Aurangzeb. He said that renaming is not fanaticism but can be called "Shiv Bhakti" or "pride of Maharashtra" or "sense of history".
"A 'secular' party like Congress is of the opinion that Aurangabad should not become Sambhaji Nagar. If it is renamed the Muslims, that is the minorities, will be upset and have a resultant impact on the vote bank. [Ultimately], it will create a question mark on their secular image. The ones who are opposing the renaming also raised the issue if rechristening will solve the issues of the people and development [there]. Whatever it may be, but there is a large section of people, in Maharashtra at least, who do not want to keep any corner [named] after Aurangzeb," Raut wrote.
Thorat tweeted a statement asking why the Sena and BJP which enjoyed power at the Centre and the state for five years did not remember the issue of renaming Aurangabad then. Without naming the two parties, Thorat wrote, "The two [parties] who are in power in Aurangabad for years now should speak about development. The people of Aurangabad want this, but they both have disappointed them and therefore they have to take support of the issue of renaming ahead of the municipal corporation election."
"Our ally in the state Shiv Sena is worried about their votes therefore they have started this 'Saamana' (war) of renaming cities. About BJP, hypocrisy is their character trait, therefore people view their words and actions as entertainment," Thorat said.
The Congress leader also made it clear that the renaming row will not affect the stability of the three-party government.
Raut in his column targeted the Congress party over their reservations to support the renaming. The Sena leader wrote about the history of the "aggressive" Mughal emperor Aurangzeb “on whose order Sambhaji Raje was tortured and killed by Mughal chieftains and his dismembered body was thrown on the road near Pune”.
Raut added that the political leaders should revisit history books to know about the rule of Aurangzeb. "Aurangzeb was never 'secular'. He wanted to expand the empire based on Islam... There cannot be a single city in Maharashtra in the name of such an Aurangzeb. This is not fanaticism, but can call it Shiv Bhakti, or pride of Maharashtra, or call it sense of history; but if such an Aurangzeb is dear to someone, then prostration to them from the corner! This behaviour is not 'secular'!".
Raut later reporters that the issue of renaming is "over" for Maharashtra after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray referred to the city as Sambhaji Nagar.
"I have written [the column] on what Aurangzeb was. No one should fall in love with Aurangzeb. Those who have the slightest of affection for Aurangzeb will not have it after reading today's Saamana. Aurangzeb was a cruel ruler, a fanatic, and he had no love for other religions. The Shiv Sena's stand is clear that nobody should be insistent on keeping any monument or any city named after Aurangzeb," Raut said.
He also added that there is no question of "Hindu or Muslim vote bank" on the issue, but called it a question of "pride of the country", and a matter of "good and evil".
BJP leader Ashish Shelar, meanwhile, cornered the Shiv Sena on the issue and said that the party is treating Congress with kid gloves on the matter. Shelar, in a video statement on his Twitter handle said the Sena is helpless in its quest for power.
"The sentiment of the people over the renaming is clear and strong. Today, we saw how the language of Saamana changed for the sake of power. When it comes to the ego of their leaders, they use the language of 'Ukhaad dia' (referring to Saamana headline for BMC action against actor Kangana Ranaut). In a matter of pride of Chhatrapati, they say "prostration to them from the corner'. We ask the Shiv Sena why they are not using 'ukhaad dia'-tone with those opposing the renaming?" he said.
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