A seemingly innocuous event to name three tiger cubs sparked a political row in Maharashtra on Sunday after a chit apparently carrying the name ‘Aditya’ was taken back and replaced with another one.
Opposition leaders linked the name to Aaditya Thackeray, who was a minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government that collapsed last year after a rebellion by present Chief Minister Eknath Shinde resulted in an acrimonious split in the Shiv Sena.
The incident unfolded in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar city when Chief Minister Shinde, his Deputy Ajit Pawar and state forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar were invited to a function to name two male and one female tiger cubs.
After Mr Shinde took out one chit from a glass bowl, visuals of the event showed, Ajit Pawar was requested to pick a chit from another container.
With a grin, Mr Pawar showed the chit to someone. A voice in the background could then be heard saying “it’s Aditya” and suggesting that Mr Pawar should go for another.
Mr Pawar picked a second chit and the name on it – Vikram – was read out. The three cubs were finally named Shravani, Vikram and Kanha.
However, the chit apparently containing the name ‘Aditya’ gave a handle to opposition leaders to slam the Shinde government.
Leader of the opposition in the legislative council Ambadas Danve and Shiv Sena (UBT) said, “Whether from this world (referring to Aaditya Thackeray) or the sky (Sun is also called Aditya), no one can stop Aaditya. This government is even scared of his name,” he said.
Speaking to the media later, Mr Shinde downplayed a question on the naming row. “Two chits were pulled out simultaneously during the naming ceremony. Hence, one chit was kept aside. There is nothing more to this,” he said.
Mr Mungantiwar said, “Such petty issues should not be discussed. A cub born in the wild cannot be named, but the one born here in the zoo gets a name. We are not scared of any Aditya.”
Local MP and AIMIM leader Imtiaz Jaleel sarcastically said there was no need to choose any other names for the cubs. “The cubs could have been named Devendra, Ajit and Eknath.” He called the episode “low level of politics”. “I do not want to make any further comment on this,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)