India’s political landscape is currently abuzz with a heated controversy surrounding the speculated renaming of the country to Bharat. The trigger for this debate was President Droupadi Murmu’s use of the term “President of Bharat” in her invitations to international leaders for the upcoming G20 summit, sparking a renewed interest in the term “Bharat.”
The BJP, the ruling party, has recently embraced the term “Bharat,” raising eyebrows and leading to a revisiting of history when, in 2004, it walked out of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly over a resolution to rename India as Bharat, proposed by then-chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
In 2004, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet, under Mulayam Singh Yadav’s leadership, passed a resolution advocating a constitutional amendment to change the country’s official name from “India, that is Bharat” to “Bharat, that is India.” The resolution received unanimous approval from the state legislative assembly, with the notable exception of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which staged a walkout before the vote took place.
Speculation about the intentions of the BJP-led NDA government has intensified following the announcement of a special parliamentary session scheduled from September 18 to 22. The opposition has conjectured that the government may introduce the “One Nation, One Election” bill and propose the removal of the name “India” from the Constitution during this session. However, neither the Lok Sabha nor the Rajya Sabha has released the official agendas for the upcoming session as of yet.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s proposal to rename India as Bharat in 2004 was rooted in the idea of shedding colonial vestiges, including the use of English as the official language. This proposition was influenced by the socialist ideology of Ram Manohar Lohia, who believed that English created a divide between the educated and the uneducated, advocating for Hindi as the official language.
The SP manifesto at that time stated, “Our country was always known as Bharat. However, during the 200 years of British rule, it was named India.”
Notably, the Constitution, originally drafted in English, refers to “Bharat” only in Article 1, which describes the Union of States as “India, that is, Bharat.” Other provisions of the Constitution, including the Preamble, refer to “We the People of India.”
As this debate unfolds, it touches upon historical, linguistic, and political sensitivities, sparking a contentious discourse that is expected to play out in the upcoming parliamentary session.