Hours before the arrival of MNS chief Raj Thackeray in Aurangabad on Thursday, his party workers put up a welcome banner to further embarrass the ruling Shiv Sena. While the banner contains the text- ‘Welcome to Sambhaji Nagar’, the header reads- ‘Wake up Maharashtra, Saffron Maharashtra’. Basically, it has been Sena’s longstanding demand to rename Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar. The emphasis on the word ‘Sambhaji Nagar’ indicates that the MNS is likely to rake up the issue of name change ahead of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation election.
Aurangabad was a prominent Mughal city in the Deccan region and derives its name from the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. On the other hand, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was tortured to death by Aurangzeb. In 1995, a proposal was passed in the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation to rename the city as Sambhaji Nagar. However, it was challenged by Congress corporator Mushtaq Ahmed in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court. As his plea was rejected by the HC, Ahmed moved the Supreme Court which stayed the process of renaming the city.
Incidentally, it was Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray who had publicly promised to rename Aurangabad in August 2015. Welcoming the New Delhi Municipal Council’s decision to rename Aurangzeb Road in Delhi as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Road, Thackeray called for Aurangabad to be renamed as ‘Sambhaji Nagar’. He assured that requisite resolutions would be passed in this regard as the Sena was in power both at the Centre and in Maharashtra. However, there has been no progress on this demand despite Uddhav Thackeray taking over the reins of power in November 2019.
Speaking on August 29, 2015, Uddhav Thackeray remarked, "We welcome Delhi corporation's decision. On the same lines, we would rename Aurangabad city as Sambhaji Nagar. Now that we are in power at the Centre and the state, we will once again get resolutions passed and change the names.”
Recently, Suhas Dashrathe, a prominent Shiv Sena leader from Aurangabad joined MNS. A hardcore party worker for 38 years, Dashrathe is considered close to former Sena Lok Sabha MP Chandrakant Khaire. He jumped ship ahead of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation election due in April 2020. Interestingly, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party has been ruling in the Corporation for many years.