Invitations for a G20 dinner have been sent out by President Droupadi Murmu describing her position as ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the customary ‘President of India’, triggering a massive furore on Tuesday with the opposition alleging that the Modi government is planning to drop India and stay with just Bharat as the country’s name.
Confirming that Bharat has been used as the name of the country in some of the documents relating to G20, sources said it was a conscious decision.
On Tuesday night, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra shared an official information regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Indonesia in which he has been referred to as “Prime Minister of Bharat”.
Modi will be leaving for Indonesia on Wednesday night to attend the 20th ASEAN-India Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit.
“Bharat is the official name of the country. It is mentioned in the Constitution as also in the discussions of 1946-48,” a booklet prepared for G20 delegates said. The booklet titled ‘Bharat The Mother of Democracy’ also said, “In Bharat that is India, taking the consent of the people in governance has been part of life since earliest recorded history.”
Senior BJP leaders and ministers also cheered the move by Rashtrapati Bhavan with Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar asking what is the problem with using ‘President of Bharat’ as our country is also Bharat.
The move also further fuelled speculation that the issue of changing the name of the country could come up during the five-day special session of Parliament beginning September 18.
As no specific agenda has been announced yet for the Parliament session, speculations regarding its agenda ranging from simultaneous polls to women’s reservation bill are doing the rounds.
The invitation, which was widely shared on social media, led to a storm of reactions with the opposition alleging that the move was reflective of BJP being scared of INDIA bloc and the ruling party asserting that there was nothing wrong in using Bharat as it is part of the Constitution.
Several opposition leaders shared Article 1 of the Constitution which states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States” and also the provision that refers to the country’s president as “President of India”.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X, “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’.”
In another post, Ramesh said, “Mr. Modi can continue to distort history and divide India, that is Bharat, that is a Union of States. But we will not be deterred.”
West Bengal CM and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said, “We all know India is Bharat, but the world knows us as India.” What changed suddenly that we should use only Bharat, she asked.
‘President of Bharat’: Rs 14,000 cr could be the cost India pays to become Bharat
According to estimates, a name change from India to Bharat might cost the country upwards of Rs 14,000 crore—the amount spent by the Centre on its food security scheme every month.
Although renaming of a country or a province might seem like a superficial exercise, it involves changes at hyperlocal, district, state, national and international levels. This makes it a time-consuming and expensive affair that will require coordination from various public and private bodies, in addition to the perceptive change that will have to be made at the individual citizen level.
Her Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin also lashed out at the government over the issue, saying that after “non-BJP forces united to dethrone the fascist BJP regime” and aptly named their alliance INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), now the BJP wants to change ‘India’ for ‘Bharat.’
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asked whether the BJP would change the name of Bharat if the opposition alliance INDIA rechristens itself Bharat.
NCP president Sharad Pawar said no one has the right to change the country’s name. BJP reacted with delight to a G20 dinner invitation that described Droupadi Murmu as “President of Bharat”, saying the use of the Hindi name for the country underscores its “civilisation march”, and rejected the opposition’s objections to it.
“Congress looks at everything as tinkering. Sometimes they will talk about eradicating ‘Sanatan Dharma’. I don’t see there is any problem. If we won’t use the name of Bharat as Bharat then what else,” Chandrasekhar said.
Citizens free to call India or Bharat: SC
The citizens are free to call the country India or Bharat as per their wishes, the Supreme Court had said in 2016 while dismissing a PIL which sought a direction that India be called ‘Bharat’ for all purposes.
“Bharat or India? You want to call it Bharat, go right ahead. Someone wants to call it India, let him call it India,” a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit, both retired, had observed while trashing the PIL filed by Niranjan Bhatwal from Maharashtra.
The Centre had told the top court in November 2015 that the country does not have to be called ‘Bharat’ instead of ‘India’.
It had said, “There is no change in circumstances to consider any change in Article 1 of the Constitution of India.” Article 1(1) of the Constitution says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
Opposing the PIL, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said issues regarding the country’s name were deliberated upon extensively by the Constituent Assembly during the drafting of the Constitution and clauses in Article 1 were adopted unanimously.