On India-Bharat Name Change Row, Rahul Gandhi's Jab At Government

Buzz the government may change the country's name from India to Bharat has triggered furious pushback, particularly since it came days after opposition bloc INDIA said it would contest polls "together as far as possible".

On India-Bharat Name Change Row, Rahul Gandhi's Jab At Government

Rahul Gandhi is a Congress MP from Kerala's Wayanad district.

New Delhi:

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the government on Sunday over speculation it plans to change the country's name to Bharat. At an event in France, he was asked if "... this change (to) a more popular name... is there a point or value to be derived?" In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter) by the Congress, Mr Gandhi seems to play down talk of the name change - calling both "perfectly acceptable" - before the smile and the swipe.

"Well... the Constitution actually uses both names, right? The line in the Constitution, which I began with, is 'India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States'. So I don't really see a problem... both are perfectly acceptable."

Mr Gandhi then takes a pause and continues with a smile, "But, I think, maybe we irritated the government a little because we named our coalition INDIA and that got them all heated up. And now they've decided to change the name of the country."

"I mean, you know how these things are... I mean, we could always give our coalition a second name as well... (but) I don't think it will solve the purpose. But people act in strange ways!"

The opposition leader then lobs the question back, "What do you think about it?"

In a graphic shared by the Congress, Mr Gandhi - at the Sciences PO University in Paris, also said, "The most important is the voice of all people included in these states is heard loud and clear, and no voice is crushed or intimidated."

The India-Bharat Controversy

A storm broke after invitations to G20 leaders described President Droupadi Murmu as 'President of Bharat' insted of India. 'Bharat' and reference to it as the "mother of democracy" was also used in other promotional material for the summit.

READ |India To Be Called Bharat? Renaming Controversy Explained In 10 Points

The change triggered furious pushback, particularly since it came days after INDIA - an opposition bloc seen as gathering momentum ahead of Lok Sabha election in a few months - said it would contest polls "together as far as possible".

READ | "Will Contest Together As Far As Possible": INDIA Bloc Amid Differences

INDIA members accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "distorting history and dividing India".

Some other INDIA members also mocked the government; Aam Aadmi Party boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked if the Bharatiya Janata Party would change the name to 'BJP' if INDIA renamed itself BHARAT.

Mr Gandhi took a sly swipe then too, reminding the BJP, which has built its electoral success on a nationalist platform. "Fight is between NDA (the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) and INDIA... You know who wins when you stand against India."

"Not INDIA, Call Them...": PM Modi

The opposition bloc's decision to call itself INDIA - which expands to Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance - seemed to upset even the Prime Minister, who early last month called them "Ghamandiya" - the Hindi word for 'arrogant' and accused the Congress of changing its name "to hide how they schemed against the poor". 

Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma had a name change suggestion too - for Rahul Gandhi. Accusing him of "working to break the country", the Assam Chief Minister asked him to "give away (the) Gandhi title".