New Delhi, July 10: Exit, the Nehru-Gandhis. Enter, a pantheon of Sangh favourites who will now adorn the maze of government schemes.
“The people of India have decisively voted for a change,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said as he started his budget speech. Over the next two hours, he flagged a “change” not even those analysts disappointed at the budget’s cautious moves would have missed.
The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme is now the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana — a change of the programme’s nomenclature from English to Hindi, and of its mascot from the former Prime Minister to one of the Jana Sangh’s icons.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the signature tune of the past decade, received one small para in Jaitley’s address.
Instead, Jaitley announced a scheme called the “Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission”, named after Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the BJP’s ideological parent Jana Sangh. The scheme is rooted in former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s idea of Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (Pura).
But the BJP did not — or cannot — name virtually every scheme after the same person or family. In the decade that it ruled before its defeat this May, the Congress launched 11 central government schemes named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. It did not name a single programme after P.V. Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister under whose stewardship Manmohan Singh unleashed the economic reforms in 1991.
The BJP has ruled for only six of the 67 years of India’s independence, and has few leaders or families who have held complete sway over the party like the Nehru Gandhis have run the Congress.
Other leaders who enjoyed close ties to the BJP and Jana Sangh are useful, though. Sample some of the schemes announced by Jaitley today.
The central government, he said, will launch a “Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training Programme” in Madhya Pradesh. Malviya was a senior leader of the pre-Independence Congress, but left the party over the creation of separate Hindu and Muslim electorates. He also founded the Hindu Mahasabha in 1906.
Madhya Pradesh, Jaitley said, will also house a Jayaprakash Narayan National Centre for Excellence in the Humanities. Narayan — better known as JP — was the architect of the non-violent rebellion against Indira Gandhi that led to India’s first non-Congress government in 1977. That government was a coalition of Narayan’s party, splinter groups of the Congress and the Jana Sangh — the precursor of the BJP.
The names of some schemes also reflect the BJP’s passion for Sanskrit.
The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, launched by the UPA as its flagship programme to improve sanitation in villages, will now be called the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, with a target to ensure a clean toilet in every Indian home by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Ganga conservation mission will now be called Namami Gange — a salutation to the Ganga.
But the BJP’s preference for Sanskrit over Hindi and Hindi over English isn’t universal — not if the scheme refers to a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Jaitley’s predecessors under the UPA — P. Chidamabaram and Pranab Mukherjee — weren’t anywhere as fluent as him in Hindi. But in their budget speeches they made it a point to refer to the central government’s premier rural housing scheme as Indira Awas Yojana, named after Indira Gandhi.
For Jaitley today, the yojana simply became the “rural housing scheme.”