Facing a threat to his government following an uprising in his party, Maharashtra’s Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday where a demand was made to rename the city of Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar.
The cabinet meeting took place at the state secretariat in south Mumbai, a day after Mr Thackeray took the wallets of insurgent Shiv Sena ministers camped in Guwahati. The CM, who has moved to his family home Matoshree in a suburb of Mumbai, took part in the proceedings virtually.
A cabinet minister insisted that no political discussion took place at the meeting.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Transport Minister Anil Parab of the Shiv Sena said he demanded that the city of Aurangabad in central Maharashtra be renamed Sambhajinagar.
“A proposal will be presented at the cabinet meeting tomorrow,” said Parab, a close associate of Thackeray.
The move comes under pressure on the Shiv Sena, which has been accused of compromising its core Hindutva ideology. The opposition BJP has tried to corner the Shiv Sena, who heads the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) three-party government, by renaming the central city of Maharashtra after Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji.
Considered a polarizing figure in Indian history, Mughal emperor Aurangazeb founded the city of Aurangabad in the Marathwada region of present-day Maharashtra. He had also ordered the execution of Chhatrapati Sambhaji, a personality revered by the Shiv Sena.
Fisheries Minister Aslam Shaikh, who is a member of Congress, said there has been an extensive discussion about the increasing COVID-19 cases in certain districts and the steps being taken to contain them. The rain shortage in the state was also discussed, he said.
“There was no political discussion in the cabinet meeting that focused only on the stated agenda,” he said.
Home Secretary Dilip Walse Patil, a senior NCP leader, echoed Mr Shaikh and said no political issues were raised.
He said another cabinet meeting is likely to take place on Wednesday to resolve the pending issues.
On Monday, Mr Thackeray, who also heads the Shiv Sena, had divested portfolios of rebel ministers, including Eknath Shinde, who has raised the flag of rebellion against the Sena leadership, and reassigned their departments to other ministers.
Shinde’s rebellion, which has claimed the support of nearly 40 dissident Sena MLAs, has threatened the survival of the two-and-a-half-year-old MVA government, which also includes the NCP and Congress.
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