From the Viewsroom

The name of the game

Poornima Joshi | Updated on February 28, 2021

Mixing sport theatrics with political propaganda is a tested formula

The renaming of the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad after Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not just an exercise in personality projection. The tallest leader the RSS has produced in its 95-year-old struggle to seize the national imagination naturally desires a place in history. Modi personalises the RSS’s civilisational project to rewrite India’s past, especially the Nehruvian legacy. The success of this politico-cultural endeavour in routing the Congress from almost all its traditional bastions ensures that Modi’s personality symbolises the RSS project. What started in the 2014 general elections as a campaign characterised by Modi masks, has progressed to become more monumental.

Even given the fact that most of our prominent political figures had at least demitted office before buildings and national programmes were named after them, the Congress can hardly complain about the ruling dispensation’s drive to identify every monument, road, railway station et al with their ideological forefathers. Rahul Gandhi should take heart that the metro station in Connaught Place is still called Rajiv Gandhi Chowk although the shopping arcade in the heart of the Capital continues to be ‘CP’ in the popular lexicon.

The BJP and Modi are aiming higher on the scale of going down in history. The choice of the stadium is typical of the iconoclasm favoured by ideologically motivated leaders from both the Left and the Right spectrum. Joseph Stalin named what is now called Tofiq Bahramov Republican stadium in Baku after him. Stalin passed away in 1953. And the stadium was renamed after Vladimir Lenin following the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956. Saddam Hussain named the Baghdad Gymnasium after him. The Stuttgart Stadium was named after Adolph Hitler after its construction in 1933. The then German regime had sought to mix sport and religious symbolism with political propaganda at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The BJP has not taken this road. But it is hard to say how history will judge the party in this respect.

Published on February 28, 2021

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