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Congress, BJP and the culture of baptism: The Tribune India


Manish Thakur & Nabanipa Bhattacharjee


Manish Thakur, IIM-Calcutta and Nabanipa Bhattacharjee, University of Delhi

Despite last month’s Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, the sycophancy refuses to leave the business of the Indian National Congress. A few days after this event, the government of Rajasthan led by Ashok Gehlot published full-page advertisements in major Indian newspapers on an urban employment program – the Indira Gandhi Shahari Rojgar Yojana. Similarly, the Congress-led government of Chhattisgarh under Chief Ministry Bhupesh Baghel is busy publicizing the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyaya Yojana.

Much has already been written about the obsessive and rather endless commemoration of the Congress leaders of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Observers have repeatedly pointed to the anomaly of naming an airport in Hyderabad and an Indian Institute of Management in Shillong after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Not only are such baptismal records an affront to the various regional icons residing throughout this country, but they also reveal the moral bankruptcy of a political party with more than a century of history behind it. Is its pantheon of leaders and ideologues so narrow that the Congress party has to resort to Gandhis alone? Or is it indicative of the deeper malaise that permeates its political culture and compels even some of its capable mass leaders to display public submission to Gandhis? Is it not ironic that at a time when Rahul Gandhi keeps chanting the mantras of India‘s pluralism and diversity, the names of Gandhis continue to be prefixed to a range of programs, institutions and organizations?

In fact, by going on the nomination spree, either by choice or coercion, after the Gandhis, the Congress has provided enough grist for the propaganda mill of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which essentially sees it as a cowardly group. of sycophants and opportunists – who are mere aspirants to power and still beholden to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – without firm ideological convictions. Furthermore, it gives the BJP the same naming rights, albeit on a broader ideological ground. Thus, the BJP feels emboldened to name a sports stadium in Goa after Syama Prasad Mukherjee even as the Liberation of Goa (1961) occurred eight years after the death of the former in 1953. It is the same logic that animates naming schemes after Bharatiya ideologue Jan Sangh. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. The growing public visibility of VD Savarkar is part of the same narrow christening speech. Arguably, Congress’ criticism of the BJP’s renaming policy lacks conviction, as its own iconography goes little beyond the Gandhis. Clearly, the BJP is the natural beneficiary of Congress’s refusal to admit non-Gandhis into its repertoire of worship despite the G-23’s attempts to ask a series of probing questions about the present and future of the big old party. .

The treatment meted out to the first non-Gandhi Prime Minister of Congress – the late PV Narasimha Rao is a case in point. Rao’s biographer Vinay Sitapati documented the political scheme and plot behind, for example, Rao’s cremation in Hyderabad and not Delhi. Even today, after persistent requests from various quarters, Hyderabad Airport has not been named after Rao. Compare Rao’s contribution to governance and nation-building to that of Kamala Nehru to India’s liberation movement. The country is dotted with institutions and roads bearing the name of the latter against which the presence of the former pales insignificance. Shouldn’t Congress be taking a hard look at its entrenched culture of sycophancy that tarnishes its image in the popular imagination? And it is this culture that helps Prime Minister Modi address Rahul Gandhi as a shahzada (prince), thus not unfairly belittling the family-centric feudal ethos of Congress.

In any case, as a nation we should certainly think about naming airports and other public facilities from a pool that is not limited to politicians. For example, there are examples around the world where airports are named after musicians: John Lennon in Liverpool (UK), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg (Austria), Franz Liszt in Budapest (Hungary), Frederic Chopin in Warsaw (Poland) and Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Likewise, the painter Il Caravaggio lends his name to the airport of Bergamo (Orio al Serio), Italy, without forgetting the Leonardo da Vinci airport of Rome-Fiumicino, Italy. Interestingly, there is an airport named after a cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, Sonoma County Airport located in Santa Rosa, California, USA. Schulz was the popular creator of the Peanuts cartoon series and had lived in the county for over 30 years. The airport logo even features Snoopy in his full flight ace outfit.

One way out of this acrimonious competitive naming politics is to expand the very pool of celebrities to choose from. After all, there is no reason to confine the idea of ​​grandeur to the sole realm of politics, politics and governance. A civilized society has an obligation to commemorate all those who have contributed to the continuous refinement of our manifold concerns of humanity: musicians, artists, novelists, painters, actors, playwrights, filmmakers and others. Naming an airport in Gorakhpur after Munshi Premchand, or after Kuvempu in Mysuru or after Bendre in Hubballi will be as appropriate as one after Charan Singh in Lucknow or Lal Bahadur Shastri in Varanasi. Once we are able to understand the contributions of people from different walks of life, our myopic understanding of politics is likely to change for the better. We are very likely to realize that C Rajagopalachari and Subramania Bharati contributed equally to a delineation of the idea of ​​India, albeit in two different fields. As spectacular as the contributions of the Nehru-Gandhi family may have been, India is too dynamic and diverse a country to be homogenized under its name. Needless to say, such an understanding will also serve Congress. It is time for members and congresswomen to consciously contain the debilitating virus of general servitude to the Gandhis.


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