Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Naming Game

Can somebody please tell me what the late Rajiv Gandhi has got to do with the Worli Sea Link? He was a wonderful Prime Minister who had ushered in an era of technological reforms. Along with Sam Pitroda he had championed the STD revolution. But those who have known Rajiv Gandhi from a close quarter will vouch that he was a proud man who wouldn’t have lent his name to an engineering marvel he was not associated with.
Then why does the Gandhi family agree to the sycophancy of nomenclature? Is it because they are aware that in India, history bears no animus towards myths and legends and that the perpetuation of a family’s name by any means serves the great electoral purpose decades later? Frankly, this is cynical politics – a kind of politics that a free and liberal democracy of the 21st century cannot be indulgent towards. Such politics gives enough leverage to a Mayawati when she erects her own statues as though Dalits deserve their separate brand of idolatry.
Who said there’s nothing in a name? Why should grandchildren of those who drove around the Bandra Worli Sea Link for the first time as proud Mumbaikars be compelled to remember Rajiv Gandhi’s name every time they drive down the corridor fifty years from now. In the past we have hero-worshipped our freedom fighters to such a ridiculous extent that there are more than two roads named after Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru in most cities of the country. Greatness is acknowledged far better when later generations comprehend the essence of the man. One wonders if today’s India is eager to understand the values and principles Gandhi and Nehru stood for and find out what their legacy is all about. Naming a road or a sea-link is a desperate effort to enforce greatness where it is possibly far from due.
So, let’s admit that the naming of the Bandra Worli Sea Link after Rajiv Gandhi is a deliberate attempt to capture a place in history in a silly but purposeful manner. The Congress attempt to glorify its heroes rather unabashedly has given birth to the phenomenon of competitive history writing. The saffron intelligentsia has been demanding for quite some time that the likes of Veer Savarkar, Hegdewar, Golwalkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyay be granted greater space and visibility in modern Indian history. It’s no doubt an unfair demand given the limited impact they had on the lives of their contemporaries but there’s no denying that the demand has been borne out of the Congress propensity for bestowing extraordinary greatness on its leaders.
What also offended sensibilities is the manner in which the naming of the Bandra-Worli Sea-Link was accomplished. Maratha strongman, Sharad Pawar, has fallen out with the state Congress leadership after his pre-poll flirting with the Third Front and his optimistic eve-of-the-election projection of himself as a Prime Ministerial hopeful in the case of a badly hung Parliament. The Congress-led coalition came back with a stable majority reducing Pawar to a minor political player on the national stage. He managed to secure his old, respectable portfolios but the guru of cricket knew he was on a sticky wicket; so much so the state Congress in Maharashtra had begun baying for his blood and insisting that it could take on the Shiv Sena-BJP combine alone. The NCP was truly marginalized.
No wonder then that Pawar grabbed the opportunity which came his way when he was sharing the dais with UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi. Conveniently forgetting that this was the woman whose authority and source of power he had questioned a decade ago, Pawar lobbed the suggestion that the corridor be named after Rajiv Gandhi, given the slain leader’s scientific vision and temperament. And when such suggestions are made, Congress politicians traverse the traditional, much-trodden path. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who seconded Pawar’s proposal was a delighted man. He said yes with a respectful smile that even the most pliant of yes-men would be embarrassed to wear. Worse, even Sonia Gandhi agreed gratefully, giving the definite impression that the charade was not of her making anyway.
But it was a charade in the end, a charade that will only fetch disrepute for an otherwise healthy democracy.


  1. Competitive history ? What's that ? It's like if Ram Chandra Guha doesn't write history book we won't be able to know history! Typical left-liberal argument. U worship scophancy and critises it also ? U can't have it both ways.

  2. Am no fan of the khaki knickars - but seeing the below link makes me want to vomit!