G20 Summit: Prime Minister Narendra Modi of 'Bharat' presiding

Observers noted the 'Bharat' tag in front of Modi during the inauguration of the G20 Summit in New Delhi today, rather than India

Observers noted the 'Bharat' tag in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the G20 Summit in New Delhi today, 9 September (photo: IANS)
Observers noted the 'Bharat' tag in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the G20 Summit in New Delhi today, 9 September (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

Amid the debate over the India/Bharat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, 9 September, delivered his inaugural speech at the G20 Summit with the country tag 'Bharat' placed in front of him.

The spectre of a 'name change' has become a bit of a political dogfight lately, ever since Rashtrapati Bhavan first sent out invites for the G20 dinner signed by the 'President of Bharat', rather than the customary 'President of India' in most official English communications.

There began the controversy, and now it would seem Modi has added fuel to speculations that the Centre might insist on a single official name for the nation, 'Bharat' and not 'India'.

It isn't a new debate, of course, having been intensely discussed back in 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India, before BR Ambedkar presented a Constitution where Article 1 spoke of 'India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States'.

However, the Opposition feels—perhaps justifiably—that the government's renewed discomfort with 'India' at this juncture in history is related to the acronym for their 28-party coalition, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, ie, INDIA.

On Friday, while addressing a press conference in Belgium's Brussels, Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi spoke of the name change row as well, dubbing it mere “distraction tactics” and saying it was a panic response to the popularity of India.

Gandhi spoke of the fear the alliance had awakened in the government and how INDIA disturbs the prime minister and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enough to want to change the name of the country, which he called “absurd”.

Gandhi said, “I am happy with the names that we have in the Constitution. ‘India, that is, Bharat’ works perfectly for me. I think these are panic reactions, there is a little bit of fear in the government and it is a distraction tactic.”

He added that the Opposition parties name for the coalition was "a fantastic idea as it represents who we are".

We consider ourselves as the voice of India so the word (INDIA) works very well for us.
Rahul Gandhi, Indian National Congress leader

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on the eve of the G20 summit, 8 September, said something quite similar while addressing a public meeting in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon.

He said that for the 2024 general elections to the Lok Sabha, the Opposition parties had formed an alliance and named it 'INDIA'. However, he added, "As soon as we kept this name, BJP people got panicked. Now, they are saying that the country's name should be ‘Bharat’… [which] is already there in the Constitution.”

While members of the ruling BJP government have applauded the use of 'Bharat', citing the ancient Hindi name's cultural roots, the official party line seems to be that both are official names of the nation per its Constitution.

Some leaders have claimed the name 'India' is a British colonial legacy, which echoes the old debate of 1949.

However, those who see a progressive upholding of 'Bharat' over 'India' point to the many name changes of roads, cities, buildings, institutions and even laws in this regime and note that the 'Bharat Mandapam' was christened so well in advance of the summit.

With inputs from IANS and PTI

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