22 Sep 2023  |   05:22am IST

Bharat: A Red Herring

How did this debate come about? The RSS chief delivered a speech in early September 2023, urging individuals to refer to the nation as Bharat rather than India - a position they have long held
Bharat: A Red Herring

Blaise Costabir

“Bharat Mata Ki Jai” serves as a powerful rallying cry, invoking an internal reservoir of strength to overcome obstacles or tap into hidden reserves of energy. When we proudly sing our national anthem, it is Bharat - not India - that takes center stage. Thus, what is all the commotion really about?

When discussing the notion of “India Shining,” we simultaneously questioned the State of Bharat. This discussion implied that India embodies urban elements, while Bharat symbolizes rural and frequently overlooked areas of India.

Part 1, of the Indian Constitution states, India, that is Bharat, shall be the name. In Part V, Chapter I, Section 52 it is mentioned as “President of India” in English and “Bharat ka Rashtrapati” in the vernacular. It is reported that in 2004, the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav led Uttar Pradesh cabinet had passed a resolution that the Constitution must be amended to say ‘Bharat, that is India’, instead of ‘India, that is Bharat’, this was vehemently opposed by the BJP who then staged a walkout, reminiscent of their resistance to the GST during their time in opposition. However, they eventually passed the GST law upon assuming power. Was their opposition merely for show or driven by a desire to prevent others from receiving credit? It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court has dismissed challenges to India’s name on two separate occasions.

How did this debate come about? The RSS chief delivered a speech in early September 2023, urging individuals to refer to the nation as Bharat rather than India - a position they have long held.  However, what captured attention was the official invitation from the “President of Bharat” for a G20 dinner just days later. This was followed by Prime Minister Modi sitting behind a placard reading Bharat at the G20 summit. When one connects these dots, it appears that there may be an orchestrated effort to bring this topic to public attention and into every household. Historically, both ruling and opposition parties have utilized such emotive issues for their own political gain whenever necessary. As always, implications will follow suit in due course.

The Indian startup scene has been buoyed by the government’s Startup India and Make in India campaign has boosted domestic manufacturing. Even the G20 logo featured both ‘India’ and its Hindi equivalent, ‘Bharat.’ Meanwhile, opposition parties have also embraced this dual identity with slogans such as “Judega Bharat, Jeetega India,” while Rahul Gandhi’s well-known Bharat Jodo Yatra is still being talked about. The film industry has also incorporated these themes into their work; for instance, Bollywood films have referenced Mother India, Dil Hai Hindustani, and simply Bharat. It is noteworthy that there hasn’t been a clamor for using Hindustan instead of Bharat.

The advocates appear to have belatedly realized that India symbolizes a colonial history, while Bharat represents a modernized India. Regardless of nomenclature, our diligent scientists would have successfully accomplished the landing of Vikram on the moon. Can corruption be eradicated with a mere rebranding?

Renaming would entail a substantial expense, with pundits estimating it to be around Rs 1400 crore. Other cities and states in India have undergone this cost without any apparent benefit accruing. This expenditure would encompass the replacement of ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ on all currency notes, as well as the modification of official agency stationery, including that of the Reserve Bank of Bharat (RBB). Furthermore, the Indian Rupee (INR), which is widely recognized internationally, will require renaming to either Bharat Rupee (BHR) or BAR - an unfavorable outcome. The sole and welcome advantage appears to be stimulating economic growth through expenditure.

The aspect of brand ‘India’ is a separate issue. Business schools could incorporate it as a case study alongside existing ones such as Ceylon to Sri Lanka, Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, or Burma to Myanmar. The argument for employing dual names also holds true for Germany/Deutschland, Greece/Hellenic Republic, and China/Zonghua. Although there may be confusion initially, it will likely be resolved in due course. Therefore, this matter is not significant enough to cause concern.

The emergence of the Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a coalition of 26 opposition parties excluding BJP, has been widely credited with spurring the government into action to force the name change, if you wish to call it a change. Curiously, little had been heard about this since 2014. What happened to UCC, is that on the back burner?  With elections looming, it appears that an alternative issue was required to distract from more pressing concerns such as roti kapada aur makan.

Why would merely displaying a placard be considered sufficient to effect a name change, when the underlying requirements for such an alteration are far more complex? Indeed, an official amendment to the Constitution is imperative and can only be achieved by the Government’s ability to sway votes in their favor in the Lok Sabha. While this may prove challenging in the Rajya Sabha, it remains feasible.  However, before Presidential assent can be obtained, State assemblies must also approve of the change - a task made more difficult as some states lack  a double engine sarkar.

So why start the debate, it will be possible to make it a highly emotive issue during the 2024 general elections where rising prices of food, LPG, diesel, the weakening rupee, unemployment will all take a back seat. The fight against corruption, returning of black money as promised, health care improvement etc. So everyone should be alert and say, go ahead rename but put the more important issues on the table. Do not be fooled or allow the discourse to be diverted, focus on the core and important issues  and “India that is Bharat or Bharat that is India” will always win. Bharat mata ki jai.

(The author prefers to write rather than chat in a balcao)


Iddhar Udhar