Diversionary tactics are a legitimate part of any strategy, and particularly so in war and elections, which are similar in many ways. So, it’s surprising that there is such a kerfuffle over President Droupadi Murmu’s dinner invitation on the occasion of the G20 summit, which starts today. Instead of the usual President of India, the invitation says President of Bharat. That has led to speculation that the BJP intends to ‘rename’ India as Bharat.
This speculation is mindless because there is actually no need to make any legislative changes. India and Bharat are both the official names of the country in the Constitution. A government can choose to use either. This government could simply choose to increasingly use Bharat. Nothing needs to be renamed and no name gets demoted. That’s all there is to it. Indeed, the Indian Penal Code has already been renamed Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita. And so on. What is so breathtakingly silly about this whole episode is the manner in which the Opposition parties and the media have reacted. The latter has gone to town as if this was either a political masterstroke or an utterly horrible idea; the former have been caught off-guard and do not know how to respond. It’s a safe bet that the top leadership in government is having a quiet laugh at the way they have bowled the perfect googly.
They had bowled two similar googlies a few days before. One was the notice issued to have a special, four day, session of Parliament but without any agenda specified. That left the conventional and social media and the Opposition in a fit of hysterical speculation. The other was the announcement of a committee headed by former President Ramnath Kovind to look into the feasibility of having all 29 Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections at the same time. This is a more serious proposition but probably impractical for a huge number of reasons. In any case, there’s no reason to get so exercised till the committee submits its report.
It is legitimate, therefore, to ask why the government is doing all this. There is probably a simple explanation for the special Parliament session that has to do with auspicious dates for the new Parliament House. An equally probable reason is the possible cancellation of the winter session because, after this special session, the next one need not be held for six months. This could mean early elections, perhaps in February. But this could all be mere diversion. After all, which ruling party ever wants to discuss the substantive issues before a series of important State elections that precede a general election? What’s interesting though is that the Opposition seems to have fallen squarely into the trap laid by the government by joining issue with the latter on its diversionary moves. The Opposition should not be distracted by the red herrings thrown its way by the government; they will only increase in the run-up to elections.