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Magic name

Divide and rule might be great fun, but keeping too many divisions under control means a lot of work. There has to be a mantra, or a magic word, that will do the trick. For the Bharatiya Janata Party that word is 'Ram'. It is not possible to know how the epic hero would have enjoyed being the BJP's mascot. But the BJP's faith in the name is touching. 'Ram' is as much a war cry as a greeting, as much a deliberately inflicted wound as a palliative. It is quite likely that Ram Naik, the governor of Uttar Pradesh, was envisaging the word as a palliative when he started advocating the use of 'Ramji' in the middle of B.R. Ambedkar's name from the end of 2017. The UP government wasted little time. On March 28, it announced that Ambedkar's name will henceforth include the word 'Ramji' in all official documents. Mr Naik has claimed that this is the 'correct' way to write his name because, one, Ambedkar's father's name was Ramji, and two, he signed his name Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar on the Constitution he drafted.

The UP government's overflowing desire for correctness solely in writing Ambedkar's name may raise suspicions of ulterior motives. Dalits are angry with the BJP; there have been too many violent as well as deeply insulting incidents and quite a few policy moves that have made the BJP less loved among Dalits than it was when a large section of them voted for it in 2014. So, is the addition of Ramji to Ambedkar's name meant to be a signal of loving closeness - even if the attempt seems a little deranged? Or is it something else in the guise of a palliative, a sly absorption of the Dalit icon into the BJP discourse? The party makes a profession of erasing history and creating fictions in its place. It may be hoping that by adding the 'lucky' name, people will forget Ambedkar's rejection of caste-based Hinduism. Whatever it is, the UP government obviously thinks it worthwhile wasting government time and resources on name games when the state is overrun with problems.

Opinion

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