The Telegraph
Friday , August 22 , 2014
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Babus in name hunt tizzy

Jawaharlal Nehru

New Delhi, Aug. 21: Babudom has a new headache: the government’s latest Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban “Renewal” Mission.

A mission, that is, to “renew” the original mission’s name, dropping the reference to the first Prime Minister and ushering in a Sangh-BJP stalwart.

The problem faced by the urban development ministry’s babus is that they have been asked to suggest a suitable name. And they haven’t a clue.

“We are jittery about being able to find candidates worthy enough,” confessed a babu who said minister Venkaiah Naidu would vet the list and forward it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will take the final decision.

“So we are researching RSS-BJP history and pleading with everyone we meet to suggest candidates.”

Even journalists visiting bureaucrats in the ministry are being quizzed about possible names.

It had all been much simpler under Congress rule, when a range of schemes big and small wore the name of one Nehru-Gandhi or the other like a badge. But the Modi government is now on a Mission Moniker, having already relabelled several of its predecessor’s projects.

There lies the babus’ problem: the perennial Sangh favourites are already taken.

The Sangh’s prime ideologue has replaced Rajiv Gandhi in the scheme for rural electrification, now called the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee has lent his name to the Rurban Mission, a programme to urbanise rural areas.

“Some of us had zeroed in on these two obvious names, but we realised they had already been snapped up,” a hapless babu said.

“We are now even considering Jayaprakash Narayan, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Vallabhbhai Patel.”

Unfortunately, like Upadhyaya and Mookerjee, Arun Jaitley’s budget last month claimed Malaviya and JP too.

A national centre for excellence in humanities, to be set up in Madhya Pradesh, has been named after JP, the socialist icon who led an anti-Congress movement. Malaviya, one of the early leaders of the Right-wing Hindu Mahasabha, will adorn a yet-to-be-launched teachers’ training programme.

Naidu has confirmed the scrapping of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which began in 2005 with an outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore and came to the end of its tenure in March 2014.

Jaitley’s budget last month allocated funds separately to a slew of urban projects without once mentioning the flagship scheme or its possible renewal.

But the babus say the separate projects will again be clubbed under a redesigned umbrella programme, focusing on “smart city” creation. “The minister (Naidu) has asked us to find a name for it,” a bureaucrat said.

If the babus can’t zero in on a Sangh-BJP candidate, the government may have to expand its horizons. Sources said the Centre might not be averse to considering Mahatma Gandhi, socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia or B.R. Ambedkar as the face of the urban mission.

But that may not end babudom’s problems. Sources said the Modi government planned to re-christen some 11 central schemes now bearing Nehru-Gandhi names.