At first glance, the new acronym for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) — INDIA — seems like a smart move.
Even though the expanded form of INDIA, , is a mouthful and rather ungainly, it gives the parties banded under it the chance to pit INDIA against Narendra Modi, INDIA against the BJP, INDIA against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The short-form allows the alliance to claim INDIA as its calling card against Modi and the BJP.
A closer look, however, suggests that the acronym is a bit too smart, dreamt up by those who represent the old elite and “Idea of India” groupies, which is essentially the “secular-liberal-left” conglomerate.
This group largely comprises the English-speaking urban elite. This elite is at variance, even at war, with the rest of India in the hinterland — an India that was always known as Bharat.
From farmers to the poor, and decades before the rise of Narendra Modi, deracinated "progressiveness" was pitted against tradition and Indian-ness, with condescending paternalism as its driving principle of the modern state.
Modi changed all that with his intuitive understanding of India that is Bharat, where empowerment was given preference over entitlement, self-help over doles.
His language and his approach, despite some hat-tips towards doles ahead of elections, have been representative of a Bharatiya sensitivity without ignoring the urban nature of India’s future growth.
Given the UPA’s new acronym INDIA, which will give it a publicity advantage, it should be quite easy for the BJP-led NDA to turn the tables on it by adopting Bharat as its own signature tune.
Consider the political power of pitting a Bharat against India, with all the inherent meanings these two terms have acquired under the narrow ministrations of the “secular-liberal” elite.
While the term India has a certain appeal in the south and non-Hindi-speaking regions, Bharat has a much stronger appeal in the Hindi belt and even in the non-Hindi peripheries of Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
It’s also odd that Rahul Gandhi, who managed to emerge from political limbo with his Bharat Jodo Yatra, is now stuck with the INDIA label in the anti-NDA, anti-Modi alliance of which he is now part. This is too clever by half.
For the BJP, it is now a simple job to claim Bharat, and use slogans like Vande Mataram and Jai Hind as its campaign themes.
2024 is shaping up as a real fight between the old elitist Idea of India, and the new one where a self-confident Bharat is the larger Idea of India, with all its inclusivist underpinnings.
Like the over-smart opposition slogan, Chowkidar Chor Hai, which was quickly turned into a Main Bhi Chowkidar by the BJP, the acronym INDIA may not be the winner it seems to its creators.
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