Is using Sambhaji Maharaj's name crime?: Raut on renaming row

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(Eds: Adding quotes) Mumbai, Jan 8 (PTI) Days after the Congress objected to Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office (CMO) mentioning Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar in a tweet, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Friday asked whether using the name of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in government documents a crime.

He also termed as 'right' the use of Sambhajinagar name in the CMO tweet.

The Shiv Sena, which shares power with the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra, has been demanding that Aurangabad in central part of the state be renamed as Sambhajinagar, after the elder son of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji.

However, Maharashtra minister and state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat has made it clear that his party would strongly oppose the move to rename Aurangabad.

Two days back, the Maharashtra CMO, in one of the tweets about cabinet decisions, had mentioned the city as Sambhajinagar. However, Thorat had objected to it saying that the Directorate of Information and Publicity should not rename cities on its own and that it should remember that official work is a legal document.

When asked about it, Raut told reporters in Nashik that a government functions in the name of chief minister.

'Is using the name of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and Shivaji Maharaj on government documents a crime? It is people's sentiment and the government functions on the basis of people's sentiments,' he said.

Raut said Sambhajinagar was the name given to Aurangabad city by late Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.

'It will remain that way,' he said.

To a question on Congress's argument that the renaming issue was not part of the common minimum programme (CMP) of the three parties, Raut said the CMP is meant to ensure the welfare of the people.

'The CMP of the MVA is for running the government and not for creating obstacles in taking decisions that respect people's sentiments and Aurangabad's renaming is one such decision,' he added.

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

'Even the Congress is not against renaming Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, although it has opposed the proposal publicly...Aurangzeb was not a secular person,' the Sena MP said.

'There is Aurangabad district in Bihar also and there is a demand for its renaming. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has rejected it, but our CM has not done so. The BJP should make its its stand on the issue,' he added.

Replying to questions on the upcoming local bodies elections, Raut said all the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies were trying to find a common ground to contest the local elections together.

'We may succeed in some places to fight unitedly,' he said.

The Sena leader also criticised the delay in approving the names of 12 candidates for their nomination to the state Legislative Council by Governor B S Koshyari from his quota.

'Constitutional values should be upheld by those holding constitutional posts. The Constitution clearly mentions that it is mandatory to accept the recommendation regarding the names submitted by the cabinet,' he said.

'Make it clear first whether you want to keep the issue pending till you topple the MVA dispensation and get a government of your choice,' he said.

When asked whether he was referring to the governor or the BJP, he said, 'It is up to you. I have said what I wanted to.' Raut was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function in which local BJP leaders Vasant Gite and Sunil Bagul returned to their parent party- Shiv Sena. PTI MR COR NP NP