The Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday renamed the cities of Aurangabad and Osmanabad to Sambhaji Nagar and Dharashiv. This was among the last decisions of the state Cabinet under Uddhav Thackeray, who resigned as the chief minister soon afterwards.
Aurangabad was named after Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. It has now been named after 17th century ruler Sambhaji, who was the eldest son of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire. Renaming Aurangabad had long been on Shiv Sena’s political agenda with party founder Bal Thackeray first raising the demand in 1988.
Osmanabad derives its name from Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of Hyderabad. Dharashiv was the city’s old name.
The state Cabinet also approved a decision to name the new international airport at Navi Mumbai after DB Patil, a former Lok Sabha MP who had led protests for rehabilitating citizens displaced due to construction projects for developing the township.
The airport will now be called Loknete Swargiya DB Patil International Airport.
Thackeray, in an address to citizens on Wednesday, had said that ministers from Shiv Sena’s alliance partners Congress and Nationalist Congress Party “did not even say a word of opposition” to the proposal to rename Aurangabad. He expressed gratitude to them and said that citizens should remember their stance.
In January 2021, Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat had opposed referring to Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar, in a government statement, according to The Hindu. He had said that the Congress would oppose the renaming the city if the decision would disturb social harmony.
The Congress had opposed renaming Aurangabad on several occasions earlier as well.
Meanwhile, Aurangabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Imtiaz Jaleel said on Wednesday that the renaming was an attempt by the Maharashtra government to “save its chair”, according to PTI. He had, however, made the statement before Thackeray announced his decision to resign.
“All political parties have used the names of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Chhatrapati Sambhaji for personal and political gains,” he said.
Jaleel also told reporters that while the Thackeray-led government could change names, it could not change history, ANI reported.
“You’re setting a great example of cheap politics,” he said. “Only people can decide which name of Aurangabad will stay.”
Thackeray had resigned as chief minister on Wednesday after a rebellion led by party leader Eknath Shinde, who had gained support of several Shiv Sena and Independent MLAs. He had taken the rebel MLA first to Surat and then to Guwahati.
The rebel MLAs had been demanding that the Shiv Sena should cut its alliance with the NCP and Congress.