Can name-changing spree help BJP again in UP 2022?

The BJP’s bucket list this time includes districts such as Sultanpur, Aligarh, Firozabad, Deoband, Ghazipur, Basti and Mirzapur — to rename a few. Virendra Singh Rawat reports.

In the run-up to the high octane 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh had in 2018 renamed Allahabad and Faizabad districts as Prayagraj and Ayodhya respectively to reiterate its Hindutva agenda and an ostensible cultural renaissance conforming to ancient beliefs.

The gambit paid rich dividends and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally, Apna Dal-S cornered 64 of the total 80 Lok Sabha seats in the country’s most populous state.

Now with less than six months left for the crucial 2022 UP polls, a clamour of demand is rising among the local BJP leaders for renaming more districts and towns by reverting to their plausible old nomenclature.

The bucket list includes districts such as Sultanpur, Aligarh, Firozabad, Deoband, Ghazipur, Basti and Mirzapur to name a few. The renaming proponents count the public sentiments and historical facts as the prime factors for the espousal of the cause.

Interestingly, the renaming of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award after hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand by the Centre last month only provided the much needed fuel at this juncture to the state unit BJP functionaries gearing up for the big battle early next year.

Whilst state BJP leaders as also the state government officials remain tight lipped on the issue, nonetheless the demand for rechristening districts and in some cases zila panchayats refuses to die down.

For example, BJP MLA from Sultanpur Devmani Dwivedi has already raised the demand of renaming Sultanpur as Kushbhawanpur in the state legislative assembly. According to him, the city was founded by Lord Ram’s son Kush and subsequently named after him.

“I have raised the demand for renaming Sultanpur in the assembly. Now, I intend to take the matter forward with a formal representation to the state government,” he told Business Standard.

According to sources, the proposal of renaming Sultanpur has already been forwarded to the state revenue board for consideration and further action.

Firozabad district panchayat has also passed a resolution demanding the renaming of Firozabad as Chandra Nagar.

In this series, UP minister of state for secondary education Gulab Devi, who represents Chandausi assembly segment in Sambhal district, has stated to soon call upon Chief Minister Adityanath, seeking to change the name of her home district Sambhal as Prithviraj Nagar or Kalki Nagar. She claimed the people of her constituency had submitted a representation to her in this regard.

The BJP legislator from Deoband in Saharanpur district of Western UP, Brijesh Singh, has demanded to rechristen Deoband as Deovrind.

Similarly, there is a proposal to rename Aligarh as Harigarh, while the Mainpuri zila panchayat has passed a resolution to rename the district as Mayan Nagari. BJP state spokesperson Naveen Srivastava has submitted a formal letter to Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya to change the name of eastern UP district of Ghazipur as Ghadipuri.

There are also demands by the local BJP leaders to rename Basti and Mirzapur districts in eastern UP as Vashisthnagar and Vindhyadham respectively.

However, the opposition parties are not impressed and have instead termed these demands as a ploy to digress public’s attention from real issues to non-serious ones.

Senior Samajwadi Party leader and former UP cabinet minister Rajendra Chaudhary said that rather than taking steps to provide succour to the people in these troubled times, the BJP was doing things which were not worthy at all.

“The BJP is trying to change the names of the places, but the people of the state are well aware of their diversionary tactics. They have decided to change the state government itself in the 2022 assembly elections,” he added.

However, a senior UP BJP leader, when contacted, declined to comment on the matter saying the demands were being made by the respective local party functionaries, and that the state level leader and office bearers could not offer any comment thereon.

Meanwhile, noted social historian and political commentator Prof Badri Narayan called these developments as an attempt to “reinterpretation of society and history” according to the ideology and beliefs of the ruling party.

“It can be termed as a reinterpretation and reshaping of identity in society. They probably believe that the names of these places were changed during the Mughal period. It can also have a political canvas and may well foster a mobilisation of memories in the society,” he noted.

However, he claimed that if at all, the names of only a few big towns could be changed and the government may not accede to such demands from a large number of constituencies.

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