Amid a raging political firestorm over the G-20 dinner invitation having "Bharat" instead of "India" written on it, the Narendra Modi government has signalled that there are no immediate plans to change the name of the country from India to Bharat.
Earlier on Tuesday, it emerged that the official G20 invitation for a dinner to be hosted at the Rashtrapati Bhawan was sent to guests on behalf of the ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the customary ‘President of India’.
The Opposition parties, comprising a bloc called INDIA, have alleged that the Modi government is rattled with the name of the bloc and, in an attempt to discredit the bloc, have decided to change the name of the country. The allegations have further found traction as the developed comes weeks before a special schedule of the parliament that's shrouded in secrecy.
During September 18-22, the Modi government has called a special session but has not said anything at all about its agenda. Speculations about the agenda have ranged from critical developments like the passage of legislation to bring 'one nation, one election' or universal civil code (UCC) to mundane things like initiating the switch to the new parliament complex or discussing the conclusion of India's presidency of G-20.
While there has been no clear denial from the Modi government, indirect reactions have emerged. While Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to several MPs endorsed the purported change of name in the works, the Modi government gave indirect signals that it might not be the case.
Union minister Anurag Thakur in an interview said that the speculation over the change of nation's name appears to be "just rumours which are taking place" and another media report quoted sources as saying that the speculation is "rubbish".
Renaming India as Bharat
Connected to the similar controversy over India vs Bharat, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma yesterday went one step further and proclaimed India as "Republic of Bharat".
"Republic of Bharat- happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards Amrit Kaal," Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a post on X that came minutes after the Congress leader's.
Congress and other Opposition parties react: Who said what?
Launching a scathing attack on the Centre, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh posted on X (formerly Twitter), “So the news is indeed true. Rashtrapati Bhawan has sent out an invite for a G20 dinner on Sept 9th in the name of 'President of Bharat' instead of the usual 'President of India',” Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Further the Congress leader added, “Now, Article 1 in the Constitution can read: ‘Bharat, that was India, shall be a Union of States.’ But now even this 'Union of States' is under assault.”
Article 1 of the Indian Constitution reads: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."
Reacting to the Centre's move, veteran Congress leader Sashi Tharoor tweeted, "While there is no constitutional objection to calling India “Bharat”, which is one of the country’s two official names, I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with “India”, which has incalculable brand value built up over centuries. We should continue to use both words rather than relinquish our claim to a name redolent of history, a name that is recognised around the world."
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, "In our Constitution, it is incorporated that 'Constitution of India'. India is an accepted word for the country making it 'Bharat', I don't think is required."
AICC general secretary K C Venugopal charged that the BJP wants to divide people.
"The BJP's destructive mind can only think of how to divide people. Once again, they are creating a rift between Indians and Bharatiyas. Let's be clear - we are the same! As Article 1 says - India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
"This is petty politics because they are scared of INDIA. Try what you will, Modi ji. Judega Bharat, Jeetega INDIA," Venugopal said on X.
Taking a dig at PM Modi, Congress leader Pawan Khera tild reporters, "PM Modi is now having a problem with the India name and he is changing its name to 'Bharat'. The whole world is laughing at him... We have no problem that you hate us, our ideology and our leaders but do not hate India, Indians..."
Strongly criticising BJP's move, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday said the BJP was using its majority in Parliament to treat the entire country as its "fiefdom".
"BJPs aversion to India's foundational principle of unity in diversity has touched a new low. By reducing India's many names from Hindustan and India to now only Bharat shows its pettiness and intolerance," she posted on X.
Talking to the reporters, Aam Admi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal asked whether BJP would rename Bharat as well if the Opposition INDIA bloc rechristens itself as 'BHARAT'.
Govt rejects speculation of nation's name-change: Reports
Even as the BJP leaders endorse the name Bharat and associate the name India with the British colonial rule, the Modi government has give signals that an immediate change of nation's name is not on the cards.
Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur told The Indian Express that the speculation appears to be "just rumours which are taking place".
Thakur also emphasised that both the names Bharat and India are used officially and are also reflected on the G-20 publicity material.
"I think these are just rumours which are taking place. All I want to say is that anyone who objects to the word Bharat clearly shows the mindset...Bharat ke Rashtrapati…toh unhone likh diya (so she wrote) President of Bharat. So what?...I am a minister in the Bharat Sarkar. There is nothing new in it. G20-2023 (branding, logo) will have both Bharat and India written...Who has dropped it? (the word India)… Nobody has dropped it. Even if you look at the G20 branding…it is India 2023 and Bharat. Why should anyone even speculate or object to Bharat being written like that? This branding has been done for the last one year," The Express quoted Thakur as saying.
Moreover, Thakur slammed the Opposition for being critical of the country all the time.
He said, "So why this objection to the name Bharat? Why does anyone have an objection to Bharat? This shows their mentality. That in their hearts they are against India or Bharat. When they go overseas, they criticise Bharat. When they are in India, they have objection to the name of Bharat."
In a separate report, The Hindu said sources refuted the allegations of a change of name.
"Government sources told The Hindu that all talk of a formal action in the upcoming session of Parliament to change the name of India was 'rubbish'," reported The Hindu.
"It is clearly stated in the Constitution that ‘India, that is Bharat, is a Union of States’ so where is there any need for any change? The INDIA bloc of parties have tried to reduce the identity of the country to their alliance, which is not good, and therefore the use of the name ‘Bharat’ both as a decolonising nomenclature and to bring the name of the country out of this reductive exercise was required," The Hindu quoted a Union minister as saying, without naming the minister.
G20 Summit 2023 in India
The G20 Leaders’ Summit 2023 will take place from September 9-10 at the Bharat Mandapam in the international convention and exhibition centre at Pragati Maidan. India holds the G20 presidency at present.
US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian PM Anthony Albanese, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Japan PM Fumio Kishida and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will participate in the multinational event.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin has not confirmed his presence at the event, Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend. The Chinese delegation at the G20 Summit will be led by Premier Li Qiang.