Rishi Kapoor raised a crucial debate: Congress diabolical strategy on Gandhi names must be exposed

Borivali, Mumbai's western suburb, has a huge national park. It is named after Sanjay Gandhi. The Gandhi scion who died in an air crash in 1980 was not known to be a lover of nature. Why on earth was a sanctuary named after him?

Rishi Kapoor. File photo/IBN

Rishi Kapoor. File photo/IBN

A cursory look at our institutions, parks, airports, central schemes, stadiums, sanctuaries, scholarships, awards, tournaments, buses, roads and even road crossings reveal that these are named after members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Before I come to the diabolically brilliant strategy behind this all-encompassing nomenclature that surrounds Indian polity, it is important to understand that for decades, this policy has gone virtually unchallenged.

Murmurs of protest have of course emerged from Congress's rivals but those have been brushed away as political campaigns aimed at "sullying the image of our nation builders", helped no doubt by a pliant media and Congress's primacy in national politics.

These are troubled times, however, for the Grand Old Party. Not only is it at the risk of losing relevance in Indian psyche and politics, social media has empowered the people who are now asking uncomfortable questions.

The importance of Rishi Kapoor raising the debate, therefore, can never be overstated. Not only is he an acclaimed actor who speaks his mind and has over a million followers on Twitter, the fact that Kapoor is an apolitical figure means that citizens are now waking up to the internalisation that they were subjected to for long and are now raising doubts over 'hand-me-down wisdoms'.

At the heart of Kapoor's series of tweets on Tuesday lies a few simple, unanswered questions: Are members of the Nehru-Gandhi family the only martyrs in India's struggle for freedom? Are they the only nation-builders? Does our nation lack women/men of ability in any field? Why is there such a paucity of names? Why must we be forced to remember only their legacy?

According to information released by the Ministry of Planning in response to an RTI query back in 2012, Nehru-Gandhi family names have been used for a whopping 450 difference schemes, projects and institutions. As per the RTI, 12 Central and 52 state schemes, 28 sports tournaments and trophies, 19 stadiums, 5 airports and ports, 98 educational institutions, 51 awards, 15 fellowships, 15 national sanctuaries and parks, 39 hospitals and medical institutions, 37 institutions, chairs and festivals and 74 roads, buildings and places are named after just 3 members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Firstpost has a graphic to explain it.

Bear in mind that these are just central schemes. If the states are taken into consideration, the number is likely to run into thousands.

Why has one family monopolized the names of all things in India? There is actually a very good reason behind it.

Top-of-the-mind recall:

In marketing parlance, top-of-the-mind (TOM) recall is the ultimate aim, the Holy Grail for all brands. It usually means the consumer is more aware, and hopefully, buys more of the product than alternative products when faced with a vast array of similar merchandise. Such commodities last longer in the marketplace and generate a steady revenue stream for the company. A product with a high TOM also helps in brand building and extensions and every media campaign is targeted at achieving just that. How is it achieved? By sustained advertising so that you see the same set of names everywhere.

The companies usually pay a lot of money to do it. Congress did it for free, using public money. And they milked it for electoral benefit.

Imagine a party, taking advantage of the fact that it has been in power for six decades since Independence, naming everything under the sun and within its command after a small set of family members. When every awas yojana, canal project, drinking water mission or bima yojana bears the names of either Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, the subconscious message that goes to the voters is that the Family is the 'mai baap', the 'giver of gifts' and it is the sacred duty of the electorate to keep voting them (or their heirs) into power.

Chairperson of Prasar Bharati, journalist and author A Surya Prakash, who has a more exhaustive list of schemes here, says in his blog: " A perusal of these programmes and schemes shows a systematic attempt to name every government programme concerning every citizen; every possible circumstance in the life of every citizen – child bearing, child rearing, education of children, food, education of youth, employment, marriage, unemployment, destitution, handicap; and every possible challenge flowing out of lack of infrastructure – drinking water, electricity and housing after just three members of this political family who are icons of the Congress Party."

These promotion of these names form a vital part of the edifice built caringly by Congress over the years. Any attempts at questioning the fiendish strategy has so far been resisted as 'blasphemous'. Rishi Kapoor's tweets may serve as the straw that finally broke the camel's back.

Updated Date: May 19, 2016 19:13 PM

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