Now India calls Modi ‘prime minister of Bharat’ as rumours of impending name change grow

Modi administration has not confirmed replacing ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ – but has also not explained changes in G20 invites

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 06 September 2023 14:36 BST
<p>This year’s G20 logo is an image of a globe inside a lotus, using the colours of the Indian flag</p>

This year’s G20 logo is an image of a globe inside a lotus, using the colours of the Indian flag

A new official document calling India’s PM Narendra Modi the “prime minister of Bharat” has added to swirling rumours that the country could get a name change.

On Wednesday, photos emerged of the document on Mr Modi’s current visit to Indonesia, just two days before India plays host to scores of foreign leaders in its capital New Delhi for the high-profile G20 summit.

Just a day earlier, a debate on the country’s name kicked up a political storm when an official G20 invite for foreign dignitaries with Indian president Draupadi Murmu referred to her as the “President of Bharat”.

The invite has fuelled rumours that the government is considering changing the country’s name to “Bharat”, a term that has its origins in the Sanskrit language and that is used colloquially to refer to India.

The new document designates Mr Modi as the “prime minister of Bharat” and not “prime minister of India”, which has been a decades-long format.

Photos showing the new document began circulating on Wednesday, ahead of Mr Modi’s diplomatic engagement for the 20th Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India summit and the 18th East Asia summit.

While Mr Modi’s social media bio on Twitter/X still says “Prime Minister of India”, some leaders and government officials have begun using the term “Bharat”.

The ID cards of India’s officials at the G20 summit will also read “Bharat – Official”, revealing a robust international push by the Modi administration at the biggest international stage that will see the presence of Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and other foreign leaders.

“Bharat”, the word that dates back to ancient Indian scriptures, has not been a commonly used term for India’s domestic and international correspondence ever since it gained independence from British rule in 1947.

But calls for a name change have seen a push, with members of Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claiming they want to get rid of the colonial “English” name.

Recent media reports have revealed that a “special session” of the Indian parliament taking place this month could be the venue for Mr Modi to announce its intention to officially rename the country.

The Twitter/X page of India’s opposition Congress party leader Shashi Tharoor shows an invitation from the president of India reading as ‘The President of Bharat’

A resolution to that effect could be taken up by the BJP in the upcoming “special session”, in which the usual question hour will not take place, and which is scheduled for 18-22 September, officials said last week.

Opposition leaders from the Congress party say they have no idea about the agenda of the session, and claim it has been “convened without any consultation with other political parties”.

The “special session” marks a departure from the existing format of the three parliament sessions that are currently held.

Opposition leaders have questioned the haste and intention behind the rumoured name change without any explanation from the federal administration.

Indian officials have not confirmed reports to that effect, nor have they explained the expulsion of “India” from the high-profile G20 invites and identity cards.

“PM Modi is now having a problem with the India name and he is changing its name to ‘Bharat’. The whole world is laughing at him,” said senior Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera.

“We have no problem that you hate us, our ideology and our leaders but do not hate India, Indians,” he said.

The 9-10 September summit, which groups the world’s 19 wealthiest countries plus the European Union, is particularly important for Mr Modi ahead of the 2024 election in which he faces a now seemingly united opposition bloc.

Coincidentally, the rumours of the name change have come as the overall opposition rebranded itself “INDIA”, short for the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, in July.

Ahead of the G20 summit, historical monuments, airports and major landmarks have projected this year’s G20 logo – an image of a globe inside a lotus, using the colours of the Indian flag.

The opposition says it is no coincidence that the lotus is also the election symbol of Mr Modi’s BJP.

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