In a recent political brawl, the opposition and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have locked horns over the proposed renaming of ‘India’ as ‘Bharat.’ This heated debate comes in the wake of G20 Summit invitations addressed to international leaders, where President Droupadi Murmu was referred to as the President of ‘Bharat’ instead of the customary ‘President of India.’ Interestingly, historical records reveal that the same BJP, which currently champions the ‘BHARAT’ term in 2023, vehemently opposed this idea back in 2004.
In a surprising turn of events in 2004, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and leader of the Samajwadi Party (SP), led his cabinet in passing a resolution advocating the amendment of the Constitution to read ‘Bharat, that is India,’ instead of ‘India, that is Bharat.’ This proposal garnered unanimous acceptance in the state legislative assembly, with one exception – the BJP. Astonishingly, the BJP staged a dramatic walkout just before the resolution’s passage.
Speculation is rife that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) might resurrect this idea during a special parliamentary session scheduled from September 18 to 22. While the specific agenda for this session remains undisclosed, the opposition bloc anticipates that the NDA could introduce the ‘One Nation, One Election’ bill, along with a proposal to strip ‘India’ of its name.
The roots of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s vision in 2004 can be traced back to the desire to shed colonial vestiges, including the use of English, a stance influenced by Ram Manohar Lohia’s socialist ideology. Lohia believed that English created a divide between the educated and the uneducated and advocated Hindi as the official language. According to the SP manifesto, “Our country was always known as Bharat. However, during the 200 years of British rule, it was named India.”
Interestingly, the Constitution, originally drafted in English, only references ‘Bharat’ in Article 1, which describes the Union of States as “India, that is, Bharat.” Apart from this, the term ‘Bharat’ does not appear in any other provision, including the Preamble, which begins with “We the People of India.”
This contentious issue has reopened a historical debate that spans decades and raises questions about identity, language, and the legacy of colonial rule in India. As the nation awaits the outcome of the forthcoming parliamentary session, the tussle over ‘India’ versus ‘Bharat’ continues to captivate political circles.