Wednesday, May 29, 2024

How does renaming Aurangabad, Osmanabad reflect with voters?

On May 7, the Bombay High Court affirmed the Maharashtra government’s declarations renaming Aurangabad and revenue areas as Chatrapati Sambhaji Nagar and Osmanabad as Dharashiv, respectively. The Fourth phase of Lok Sabha Election-2024 on May 13, will be the first election in Maharashtra after its two historical cities were renamed. 

The citizens believe that the political parties of NDA- Alliance, MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi), and AIMIM (All India Majlis Ithadul Muslimeen)  have disregarded the significant controversy surrounding the renaming the two historical cities of Maharashtra, Aurangabad and Osmanabad in their political campaigning.

Currently serving as the Maharashtra unit president of Asaduddiun Owaisi-led AIMIM and a former journalist, Imtiyaz Jaleel is up against two candidates from the two Shiv Sena factions in Aurangabad. Four-time Lok Sabha MP Chandrakant Khaire has been fielded by the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), while Sandipanrao Bhumre, a five-time MLA from Paithan and current Employment Guarantee Minister in the BJP-led Maha Yuti government, has been fielded by the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

By 4,492 votes, Jaleel had defeated Khaire in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

While Jaleel is making all efforts to retain Aurangabad, the two warring Shiv Sena camps are looking to regain a foothold in the seat.

Chandrakant Khaire, a prominent Shiv Sena (UBT) leader who represented Aurangabad in the Lok Sabha for four consecutive terms, refrained from commenting on the renaming matter. “Our party is not addressing the name change issue in election campaigns as the citizens have seemingly accepted the new names.”

Renaming Aurangabad and Osmanabad was decided upon by a coalition led by the then-chief minister Uddhav Thackeray during the previous MVA government. The decision was made on June 29, 2022, the day before Thackeray resigned, during the last cabinet meeting.

In February of this year, the central government approved the name of both districts, further fuelling the debate surrounding the issue.

In an unprecedented move, the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, and Shiv Sena (UBT) formed a pre-poll alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Sena leaders, known for their adherence to Hindutva ideology, are now emphasising secularism and garnering support from various communities, claiming that they have backing from Muslims, Marathas, and OBCs.

Khaire also pointed fingers at the current Member of Parliament, Imtiaz Jaleel, accusing him of neglecting the issues faced by the populace, particularly Muslims and Dalits.

The Sena (UBT) leaders have launched an effort to denigrate the Shinde Sena, calling them everything from “gaddars” (traitors) to “khoke sarkars” (a government dependent on money power).

Yuvraj Chavan, 23, an Aurangabad native and first-time voter claims, “ the political party which secured the votes in the name of Hindutva politics and promises to change the name of Aurangabad for 20 years, failed to bring IT companies, employment to the city.”  

He expressed his wish that he would not experience what his brother did, who was forced to flee to Pune due to a lack of work in Aurangabad.

“Being a Hindu I will not vote for Shiv Sena due to their records of inciting religious hatred among the citizens. What can we expect from a party whose campaign slogan was ‘Khan pahije ka baan pahije’ [do you want Muslims or do you want Shiv Sena?” Chavan added.

Sangeeta Tambat, a former president of the Rotary Club of Aurangabad East, expressed scepticism about the renaming, arguing that it won’t contribute to progress. She emphasised the pressing need to address basic civic issues such as water supply, electricity, road conditions, and employment opportunities for the youth.

“We will use our vote to elect a politician who is educated and raises these issues of the city in parliament.”

Advocate Saeed Shaikh representing petitioners from Aurangabad and Osmanabad, highlights the violation of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code (MLRC) 1996, and the unconstitutional nature of the decision-making process. Shaikh expressed hope for a favourable judgement in the future.

“This is an important matter for all history lovers and secular people. The citizens who love the name Aurangabad will keep this in mind while casting their vote to any political party.”

Taha Patel, a pharmacist and a resident who was born and brought up in Aurangabad, challenged the renaming in the Bombay High Court, citing violations of 1993 guidelines set by the Union Home Department. Patel wants to move to the Supreme Court after the 7th May judgement by the Bombay High Court.

“Without even mentioning the reason for changing the name, the government has done it despite the city being a historic city and tourism capital of Maharashtra”, he says.

The controversy underscores the deep-rooted sentiments and political implications surrounding the renaming of Aurangabad and Osmanabad, raising questions about historical identity and governance processes.

However, the Maharashtra government countered on May 07 that the renaming had nothing to do with religion and was just a question of public opinion. The State government told the court in its affidavit rejecting the pleas that most people in the city were happy that Osmanabad was renamed to Dharashiv and Aurangabad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar and that this move did not violate secular ideals.

Bilal Jaleel, son of sitting MP, Imtiaz Jaleel said, “ In the last five years of Imtiaz Jaleel’s term, AIMIM has worked for the welfare of all the communities and the image of our party just for the Muslims has now been changed to secular. In the nomination rally as well as during election campaigning, we received the love and support of citizens from all the religions along with Muslims”.

He further adds, “Name change will not benefit NDA or MVA in the upcoming elections, and people are focusing on the real issues related to development.”

We have protested against the renaming on multiple occasions and we hope that the court rules in our favour. However, we call it Aurangabad and not Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar in all our election rallies. 

Jaleel also accused Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate, Khaire of his hate speeches targeting Muslims while he was a member of parliament and exacerbating the communal tensions in the city. “The city had multiple communal riots when he was MP and he did nothing to maintain peace”.

Prashnant Patil, a fruit vendor who lives in the city says “ The unexpected split of Shiv Sena and NCP had let down people’s faith in the political parties and there is no assurance which candidate will remain with whom after winning the elections.”

He feels that the Maratha reservation protest, which happened this year, maybe a deciding factor for winning the elections, especially in the Marathwada region which was the epicentre of the protest.

The Maratha reservation protest for Maratha quota in jobs and education was started by a Maratha leader, Manoj Jarange Patil in the Jalna district of central Maharashtra last year. A divide between the two communities has been fueled by the state government’s concession to them and the OBC’s fears of losing their part of the quota advantages. 

As the debate continues, all eyes are on the Lok Sabha election results on June 4th. It is the first election test for each faction following the split. In the early 1990s, Bal Thackeray established himself in Aurangabad, which is also the first area outside of Mumbai. However, the Aurangabad seat was one of AIMIM’s first victories outside of Hyderabad, making it a highly valued contest.

I am a freelance journalist and a master’s student of Convergent Journalism at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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