Bharat, that is India!

Before the euphoria over the G-20 or summit hosted by India engulfed the nation, it was consumed by the “India vs. Bharat” debate, which only died down when the ‘Bharat mandapam’ proceedings took centre stage.  What sparked off the debate was seemingly innocuous actions by the Government of India addressing Draupadi Murmu as President of “Bharat” instead of the usual President of “India”. A few other instances followed and they were enough to raise the hysteria levels in the country. What added fuel to the fire of course was the Government’s announcement to call a special parliament session in September without spelling out the agenda. Was the name change the agenda for this session was one of the speculations.

In my opinion, I don’t think that the Government is going to officially change the name of the country from India to Bharat. After all, the constitution already says – “India, that is Bharat” right in the first article. All these years governments including this one, have been using India and Bharat interchangeably or as per convenience. There are enough initiatives of this Government that go under India and equally under Bharat nomenclature. For every “Bharat” initiative (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan) there is an “India” initiative (Make in India), for example.

So, what does this sudden slipping in of Bharat instead of India of late, signify? Is this a planned counter to the branding of the Congress-led opposition alliance as I.N.D.I.A as the opposition and its sympathisers claim?  I don’t think so. As soon as the I.N.D.I alliance announcement happened, the opposition itself realised that the ruling alliance could turn it into an India vs. Bharat debate. It added a tagline ‘Judega Bharat, Jeetega India’ quickly. Since this BJP is not the one to do anything that the opposition expects it to do, I don’t believe that the sudden Bharat awakening is to blunt the I.N.D.I.A narrative. It could just be an unintended consequence, a few BJP leaders replacing India with Bharat in their social media handles notwithstanding.

The slipping in of Bharat is a part of the “Cultural Reclamation” journey this government and the Sangh Parivar has been undertaking ever since it took over in 2014.  This cultural reclamation is an attempt to go back to history and bring back aspects of our country’s best practices, customs and rituals that disappeared or got gradually transformed due to foreign invasion. This should not be seen as an isolated change but a series of changes that we have been witnessing in our socio-cultural landscape since the BJP came to power with a clear majority on its own. Some of these changes are driven by the Government directly and hence are obvious and some are driven by the Sangh Parivar ecosystem which may not be that obvious but are there to see.  Here, I am not referring to changes that are distinctly political in nature.

In terms of changes that have been spearheaded by the government, there are quite a few. The attempt to position Yoga on the world stage as a time-tested Indian system of wellness is one obvious example. There are others like renaming landmarks (Rajpath to Kartavya path, Race Course Road to Lok Kalyan Marg etc.), attempting to make Ayurveda more mainstream, reviving the forgotten story of ‘Sengol’ while inaugurating the new Parliament building, using ancient cultural language (Amrit Kaal for example), bringing back historical Indian gestures (Namaste instead of handshake during Covid and even later). Notice the Prime Minister Modi wearing only Indian attire even during foreign visits in the past few years.

More interesting however are the changes in our day-to-day life that have crept in not so much due to diktats of the government but thanks to awareness or rather awakening among the public at large permeated by the Sangh Parivar ecosystem. In the last 5 – 7 years, I see very few people expressing condolences with RIP (Rest In Peace).  More often it is “Om Shanti” these days. Similarly, in housing societies in Mumbai, greetings in the morning are shifting from “Good Morning” to “Hari Om” or “Jai Shri Ram” or “Jai Shri Krishna”!  There was a time in Bollywood, titles of films used to be shown in three languages namely Hindi, English and Urdu. These days I don’t see titles in Urdu. Even before this Bharat vs. India debate, some commentators used the name Bharat for the country when they had to mean hinterland India and just India to talk about cities.

My point therefore is, that a socio-cultural change has been sweeping the country certainly since 2014 with the objective of reclaiming our country’s pre-eminence in the historical context. In this journey, I am sure there will be more changes that will happen in the days to come. The interesting point to note in these changes is that they are politically not touchable – in the sense, that no party would have an objection in calling India as Bharat as the occasion demands or for that matter no opposition party will have a problem in promoting Yoga.  These changes are also irreversible in my opinion.

Even if it wants, even the present government I am sure understands that completely changing the country’s name from India to Bharat is not a wise thing to do from a branding perspective. India is a brand and there are quite a few positive attributes attached to it. But the idea is to use India and Bharat in parallel and where possible bring “Bharat” to the forefront like it did recently during the G-20 summit. Like Japan does with Nippon for example. In conclusion, India becoming Bharat completely seems remote but the narrative shift from “India, that is Bharat” to “Bharat, that is India” is looking plausible and no one should have a problem with it.

Postscript: The larger question remains: Among Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, which one to choose when you want to fill gas the next time? 😊 😊

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