A formal invite sent by Droupadi Murmu for the G20 dinner identifies the head of state as “The President of Bharat” instead of the customary “President of India”.
On Tuesday night, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra shared on X the official function notes announcing Narendra Modi’s visit to Indonesia next week, on the cover of which he has been referred to as the “Prime Minister of Bharat”.
The function notes that announced Modi’s August 22-25 trips to South Africa and Greece also mentioned “Prime Minister of Bharat”, it emerged on Tuesday night.
The switch has shovelled fuel into speculation about whether the Narendra Modi government is contemplating a change or formalising its preferred nomenclature — after the birth of the INDIA grouping — for the country whose Constitution begins its very first Article with the sentence “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”.
As visuals of the invitation from “the President of Bharat” started circulating on social media, Several TV channels ran reports about the possibility of the government bringing in a “resolution” in the upcoming special session of Parliament to formally name the country Bharat. Nobody from the government confirmed such a move.
Prime Minister Modi has betrayed extreme unease after the Opposition coalition was named INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), arguing that even terror outfits had “India” in their name.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had recently asked everybody to stop using “India” and stick to “Bharat”.
The dual name mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly after much deliberation.
Several names like Hindustan, Hind, Aryavarta, Bharat and India were on the table then. The members of the Constituent Assembly zeroed in on Bharat and India on the basis of the historical, cultural and linguistic understanding of the region.
The founding fathers of the nation chose to send out an inclusive message to the states where Hindi is not the dominant language by opting for bilingual names, suggesting that India and Bharat can be used interchangeably, almost like translated versions of each other.
Several members had strong views about India reflecting the colonial legacy but the objections were overruled after due consideration; all international treaties and United Nations documents had the name “India” under British rule.
What gave credence to the speculation about the plan to discard “India” was Assam chief minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma’s message on X: “REPUBLIC OF BHARAT — happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL.” Union minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar wondered what the problem was with Bharat, saying: “Our country is Bharat.” He made no mention of India.
But discarding “India” will not be easy. Reports are talking of a resolution, which means nothing except expression of intent. Change of name will require amending Article 1 of the Constitution, apart from a gigantic and complex exercise to change the nomenclature at all levels, including international treaties and agreements, which will entail a huge financial burden.
The government, apart from the presidential invite, has given no hint of any plan to drop the name India. Even Murmu’s X handle and website describe her as President of India. She continues to use India in her speeches and media releases and the G20 invite was the sole exception when she used Bharat.
Modi’s X handle, too, says “Prime Minister of India” and his messages on G20 talks include expressions like “India progressing” and “India’s moment to carve its geopolitical space”. Ministers and BJP spokespersons, who usually go to town at the faintest hint, were restrained, avoiding any discussion on the subject.