Aurangabad renaming row: Sena says Cong's stand won't affect govt

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(Eds: incorporates Congress leaders' comments) Mumbai, Jan 2 (PTI) The Congress on Saturday reiterated its opposition to renaming Aurangabad even as its ally Shiv Sena said the name change would happen soon but the issue would not rock the coalition government in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra minister and state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat had said two days ago that he would strongly oppose renaming the Aurangabad city in central Maharashtra as Sambhajinagar.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Thorat said the party revers Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as well as his son and successor Chhatrapati Sambhaji, but the issue of renaming should not be used for 'spreading hatred'.

It was the Shiv Sena, which had first made the demand to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar over two decades ago.

A proposal to that effect had been passed in the general body meeting of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in June 1995, which was challenged by a Congress corporator in the high court and later in the Supreme Court.

An editorial on Saturday in the Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' said the Congress has opposed the proposal to rename Aurangabad which has 'made the (opposition) BJP happy'.

'But the Congress's opposition to the proposal is not new and therefore, linking it to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is foolishness.' 'Thorat announced that if any proposal for renaming Aurangabad comes up before the MVA government, his party would oppose it. It is his claim. After his statement, BJP leaders started demanding that the Sena should make its stand clear on the issue. But the Sena has not changed its stance on it.' 'Balasaheb Thackeray had renamed Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar 30 years ago, which was accepted by the people.

And it will soon be changed officially as well,' it said.

It also asked why the BJP did not rename the city when it was in power in Maharashtra.

'It is an insult to the memory of Chhatrapati ShivajiMaharaj that a city in Maharashtra should bear Aurangazeb's name, who brutally killed ChhatrapatiSambhaji Maharaj,' it said.

'But what Thorat is saying is right. The Maharashtra government is duty-bound to implement the Common Minimum Program of giving justice to the downtrodden and farmers,' the Sena mouthpiece said.

Congress's opposition to the renaming proposal will not affect the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, it said.

Speaking to reporters, Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that Bal Thackeray had given the city the name Sambhajinagar.

'Only paper work is left now. When all the MVA allies sit together and talk, the issue would get resolved.' Later in the evening, Thorat said the issue of renaming a city shouldn't be used for spreading hatred and divisions in society. 'Our focus is development works,' he added.

Aurangabad, once the headquarters of the Dakkhan (Deccan) province in Mughal empire, derives its name from emperor Aurangzeb.

Another state Congress leader and state minister Ashok Chavan said renaming a city was not the coalition government's priority and it was not part of the common minimum programme.

According to historian Dr Dulari Qureshi, the city was known by various names in different periods, such as `Raj Tadag', `Khadki' and `Fatehnagar', before it acquired its present name. PTI MR NP AW KRK KRK