The Congress has accused the BJP government of "distorting history and dividing India".
The use of 'President of Bharat' in place of the traditional 'President of India' in an official invite to foreign leaders attending the G20 summit has sparked a flurry of political reactions. While opposition leaders have slammed the move and linked it to their 28-party alliance naming itself INDIA, the BJP has questioned why some parties "object to every issue related to the honour and pride of the country".
One of the sharpest reactions to the wording used in the invite came from AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal who asked whether the ruling party would change the country's name to 'BJP' if the opposition alliance decided to call itself 'Bharat'.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, the Delhi chief minister said in Hindi, "I have no official information that this (a name change) is happening. Just because many opposition parties have formed an alliance and called it INDIA, will the Centre change the name of the country? The country belongs to 140 crore people, not to one party. If the name of the alliance is changed to Bharat, will they change the name of Bharat to BJP?"
Mr Kejriwal's party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha also hit out at the BJP and said that the country does not belong to one political party.
"The BJP's recent move to change the reference from 'President of India' to 'President of Bharat' on official G20 summit invitations has raised eyebrows and ignited a public debate. How can the BJP strike down 'INDIA'? The country doesn't belong to a political party; it belongs to 135 crore Indians. Our national identity is not the BJP's personal property that it can modify on whims and fancies.Judega Bharat. Jeetega INDIA," Mr Chadha posted on X, formerly Twitter.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the whole world knows the country as India and wondered whether the name of Rabindranath Tagore would be changed next.
"I have heard that they are changing the name of India. The invites in the name of the President say Bharat. What's new in this? We say India in English and Bharat in Hindi. Even we say Bharat. But the world knows the country as India. What happened suddenly that the country's name will be changed? Will the name of kabi thakur (Rabindranath Tagore) also be changed," she asked.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin said the BJP promised to transform India, but all that the country got was a name change after nine years.
"After Non-BJP forces united to dethrone the fascist BJP regime and aptly named their alliance #INDIA, now the BJP wants to change 'India' for 'Bharat.' BJP promised to TRANSFORM India, but all we got is a name change after 9 years! Seems like the BJP is rattled by a single term called India because they recognise the strength of unity within the opposition. During the elections, 'India' will chase BJP out of power," the DMK chief posted on X.
Addressing a press conference in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said no one has the right to change the country's name.
"I don't understand why the ruling party is perturbed over a name related to the country," the NCP chief said, adding that Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has called a meeting of INDIA alliance party heads on Wednesday.
"There will be deliberation on this in the meeting, but no one has the right to change the name (of the country). No one can change the name," news agency PTI quoted Mr Pawar as saying.
Claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scared of the INDIA alliance, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said that India is everywhere, from the country's Constitution to its passport.
"PM Modi is scared of the INDIA alliance. We have the President of India, Prime Minister of India. The name is on the passport and Aadhaar cards. The Constitution says 'We, the people of India' and 'Bharat' in Hindi. If he has a problem with the INDIA name, he should have a problem with Bharat as well. Because our slogan is 'Judega Bharat, Jeetega INDIA," Mr Yadav said.
"Till a few days ago, they kept saying 'Vote for India'. Now they want to hide the India name and write Bharat. But there is no difference between India and Bharat. One is in English and one is in Hindi. So these decisions are being taken because they are nervous. How many places will you remove the name from? How much will you spend? Getting the name changed may cost as much as a state's budget. What will happen to Make in India and Skill India," he asked.
The move also invited scathing criticism from the Congress, which accused the Narendra Modi government of "distorting history and dividing India".
In a post on X, Congress General Secretary and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said, "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'. 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."
He added, "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. After all, what is the objective of INDIA parties? It is BHARAT-Bring Harmony, Amity, Reconciliation And Trust. Judega BHARAT. Jeetega INDIA!"
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he hoped the government would not be "foolish" enough to dispense with the name 'India', which has a brand value built over centuries
"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," he said on X.
BJP leaders and ministers, however, welcomed the use of the word Bharat and accused the Congress of being anti-national and anti-constitutional.
One of the first reactions was from Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who said the wording of the invite made him proud. "REPUBLIC OF BHARAT - happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL," Mr Sarma said on X.
In a stinging response to the statement by Congress leaders, BJP President JP Nadda said the opposition party has no respect for the country or the Constitution.
"Why does the Congress object so much to every issue related to the honour and pride of the country? Why does a party that took out a political yatra in the name of Bharat Jodo hate the proclamation of Bharat Mata Ki Jai? It is clear that the Congress has no respect for the country, Constitution, or constitutional institutions. All it cares about is the praise of one particular family. The whole country knows the anti-national and anti-constitutional intentions of the Congress very well," the BJP chief said in Hindi.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the decision to use 'Bharat' is a big statement against the colonial mindset.
"This should have happened earlier. It gives me great satisfaction. 'Bharat' is our introduction and we are proud of it. The President has given priority to 'Bharat'. I am certain the country will be very happy on learning of this. This is a big statement against the colonial mindset," he said.
A one-line post by megastar Amitabh Bachchan was also linked by social media users to the political row over the G20 invite.
"Bharat Mata Ki Jai (victory to Mother India)," the actor posted on X.