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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2466

BJP Banking On Symbolism

By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features

Narendra Modi can pat himself on the back after inaugurating the world’s tallest statue—that of Iron Man Sardar Patel in the interior of Gujarat. It is one of the very few promises he made during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign that he has been able to deliver while promises relating to ‘mundane matters’ like better governance, eradication of corruption, poverty and militancy have been made contingent upon his continuing in office for at least till 2050!

In due course the 182-metre Sardar statue in Narmada district will surely find a place in the Guinness Book of Records and the protests by some farmers and adivasis will be forgotten. Ideally, the Guinness people should complete the formalities before the 2019 general elections. That might be of some help for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party in retaining power for another five-year term amidst reports that the ‘Modi Magic’ is waning. As they say, strike while the iron is hot: there is always a danger that the political mileage from the ‘Made in China’ statue may dissipate sooner than what Modi and Co. may have imagined.

Indications of a drop in Modi’s popularity have come from different directions, not the least from the swirling ‘controversies’ that have made the ruling party distinctly uncomfortable. There are also questions about expectations from the re-naming spree of the BJP—renaming everything, especially towns and streets, that bear a ‘Muslim’ name. The historic city of Allahabad has just been renamed Praygraj but reports say that among those who are opposed to this move are many BJP supporters.

The former summer capital of British India, Shimla (earlier spelt as Simla) may be re-christened as Shyamala to restore its name which is said to be enshrined in sacred texts. The move has been put on hold because of the uproar but nobody should bet that the BJP or the Sangh Parivar has given up the idea altogether.

A section of the people in the national capital must be wondering why their city continues to be called Delhi or New Delhi when they call it ‘Dilli’. The British gave the name ‘Delhi’ and banished the older ‘Moghul’ name Shahjahanbad, but being foreign rulers they still ignored the majority sentiments by not calling the capital city ‘Indraprastha’ or by some other ancient names given to the city which had seven (or is it nine?) lives.

There is a whole list of ‘Muslim’ names that the BJP thinks offend the nation’s ‘pride’ while continuously ‘glorifying’ the foreign rulers. The name of Modi’s hometown of Ahmedabad must go and the ‘hurt’ feelings of the majority can be assuaged only when the denizens of the bustling western metropolis find that their city is called Karnavati.

Hyderabad and Aurangabad are clearly ‘Muslim’ names that clash with the ‘sensibilities’ of the Sangh Parivar followers. But it has been reported that the Parivar is not happy with the names of some towns even though they do not sound Muslim, like, say, Patna which the Parivar wants to be changed to Patliputra.

It is not clear how a mere change in the names of some cities will restore the ‘pride’ of its citizens and the nation which is as diverse and varied as India. More to the point: What is the use of applauding a new name for a city when the quality of life remains as poor or, in fact, goes down? Bombay became Mumbai but the problems in the city have only gone. Falling foot over-bridges seem to be the latest bane of the teeming city which is notorious for its poor civic services and slums.

As the BJP sees it, the chief merit of its strategy based on symbolism is that it influences its majoritarian appeal. Sardar Patel is being projected essentially as a leader who could have denied a separate homeland for the Muslims had the ‘wily’ Jawaharlal Nehru not stood on his way. Currently on a feverish hurry to rewrite Indian history, the BJP is determined to erase the name of Nehru and his family so that the future generations of Indians know only about those leaders of the freedom movement who fit the BJP description of being ‘nationalists’—a term that encompasses the essentials of ‘Hindutva’ and positively rejects the notion of an inclusive state.

The electoral gains that the BJP expects from the name-changing game are to be seen. But the party seems determined to disown a major part of India’s recorded history? A nation’s ‘pride’ is not compromised by its heritage which reflects various influences. Rewriting and distorting history to align it with a narrow view of the past will not enhance India’s image. Pursuing enlightened policies and improving the lives of the poor is what an emerging nation has to aspire for.

- Asian Tribune –

PM Modi, dedicated to the nation a 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the tallest in the world and said it will be a reminder about the courage of a man who thwarted efforts to disintegrate India.
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