• Monday, October 02, 2023


Massive row breaks out in India over ‘President of Bharat’ dinner invite for G20 summit

The opposition slammed the ruling BJP saying it could not tamper with the country’s name.

Preparations are underway for the G20 summit 2023, near Pragati Maidan, in New Delhi on Sunday, September 3. (ANI Photo/Mohd Zakir)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A MAJOR political controversy erupted in India’s domestic political space days before the inauguration of the G20 leaders’ summit after “President of Bharat” was used in an official invite to the heads of state attending the mega event, replacing the traditional “President of India”.

India, which is currently holding the presidency of the G20 which includes some of the world’s top economies, will host the summit in New Delhi on September 9 and 10. Among the attendees will be US president Joe Biden.

The invite by Indian president Droupadi Murmu, the constitutional head of the country, to G20 leaders and chief ministers for a dinner on Saturday (9) says, “President of Bharat” instead of the more common “President of India”.

According to officials, this is the first time that India’s nomenclature has been changed for an official event.

The Indian Constitution also mentions “Bharat”, they said.

Article 1 of the Constitution declares, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

The name “Bharat”, which is often used in daily conversation while referring to the country, has also been used in a G20 booklet handed to foreign delegates, titled “Bharat, The Mother of Democracy”, to highlight the country’s rich democratic ethos.

“In Bharat that is India, taking the consent of the people in governance has been part of life since earliest recorded history,” are the opening words of the booklet.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of the north-eastern state of Assam, welcomed the change and posted on X, formerly Twitter, “REPUBLIC OF BHARAT – happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL.”

The opposition were not happy, however.

‘How can BJP strike down India?’

Raghav Chadha, a parliamentarian from the Aam Aadmi Party which rules the northern states of Delhi and Punjab, said on X, “The BJP’s recent move to change the reference from ‘President of India’ to ‘President of Bharat’ on official G20 summit invitations has raised eyebrows and ignited a public debate. How can the BJP strike down ‘INDIA’? The country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to 135 crore Indians. Our national identity is not the BJP’s personal property that it can modify on whims and fancies.”

Indian National Congress parliamentarian Manish Tewari, who is also a lawyer, said on X, “Article 52 – Constitution of India. There shall be a President of INDIA Can’t get more explicit than this – Can it ???????”

His colleague Shashi Tharoor though said that there was no constitutional error in using ‘Bharat’, it would not be right “to completely dispense with India” saying it has an “incalculable brand value built over centuries”.

It was only a couple of days ago that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist outfit and ideological mentor of the ruling BJP, suggested that India should be called Bharat.

“We must stop using the word India and start using Bharat. At times we use India to make those who speak English understand. This comes as the flow. However, we must stop using this…The name of the country Bharat will remain Bharat wherever you go in the world. In spoken and written one must say Bharat,” said its chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Recently, the BJP lashed out at the opposition for naming their alliance as INDIA — an acronym for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. Even prime minister Narendra Modi slammed the opposition accusing them of misusing the name for their own personal gains.

The India versus Bharat debate intensified after the opposition alliance adopted the acronym INDIA – Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance – in July.

“The name INDIA is not to show their patriotism but with an intention to rob the country,” he said.

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