It could not possibly be a lack of imagination, could it? Why is everything in India named after Nehru, Indira, Sanjay, and Rajiv? I have pondered that matter here before. In October 2005 I asked:
Why is everything in India named after the Gandhis? The huge national park in Borivali in north Mumbai is called the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Did not know that Sanjay was a great nationally renowned nature lover. If I had not known better, I would have figured that he must have been the John Muir of India.
Pretty much half the things around India are named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. What astonishes me most is when educational institutions are named after the family which does not have a single graduate degree among the whole lot of them. Not that they could not afford to go to college. No, they all attended colleges and attempted to get degrees but failed to get one.
On second thoughts, given the moribund state of the Indian educational system, perhaps naming educational institutions after the luminaries of the Nehru-Gandhi family has a certain aptness to it.
Update: (March 29th) — As pointed out by harjeet.undefined in the comments below, I am wrong that no one in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has a single degree to their name. Nehru did have a degree. Mea maxima culpa. And thanks for the correction.
I pondered the naming of things once more in Feb 2008 and concluded that it was political advertising:
Naming things is easy in India. “Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal, Indira, Rajiv, and Sanjay” are the choices for the first bit, as in “Jawaharlal Nehru University,” or “Indira Gandhi International.” It won’t be too long before we have “Sonia, Priyanka, Rahul, Spotty” added to the list. (Spotty is just a place holder as I am not sure what the name of the Gandhi family dog actually is.)
I know that other nations also identify their important landmarks with the names of their historical political leaders. The US honors Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy, and so on. However, there is a great deal of diversity in their naming of things that they value. They name their scientific projects after scientists, for instance. Remember Hubble, Fermi, etc. Indeed, the Americans even named one of their space telescopes after an Indian: Chandra. I somehow doubt that would happen in India.
But no where other than in India have I noticed only one family monopolizing the naming of things. It is as if India never had any heroes until the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru and after that all the seats were taken by his progeny for eternity. I think there is a simple reason. The naming of things is a way of political advertising. An “Indira Gandhi Seva Yojna” publicly funded though it may be will ultimately drive home the message that the Gandhi family is the giver of gifts and ensure that the thumb impression of the voter lands on the Congress candidate come election time.
It is a sort of a vicious circle. First, name every institution and program with the Nehru-Gandhi name. Brand name recognition ensures that as long as the Congress has someone leading it with that brand name, it will get the millions of thumb impressions. Then if you can promote the name even more by labeling even more things with the name, you get to share some of the goodies political power provides.
It seems that one Mr Surya Prakash has also noticed this rather obscure trend and has petitioned the Election Commission and “requested him to immediately issue directions to the Union government and to all the governments in the states and direct them to remove the names of individuals, who are seen by the people as icons of specific political parties, from all government programmes and schemes funded by the exchequer and to immediately give these programmes politically neutral names.”
Here is an extended quote from an article in the Indian Express of 25th March written by Surya Prakash titled, “Why Nehru, Indira, Rajiv Everywhere” (Hat tip: Rajeev Mantri for the link.)
In a systematic effort to gain an unfair advantage over others, the Congress party has named all major government programmes, projects and institutions in the country after three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family “Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru” who are its icons, and disturbed the level playing field in the electoral arena.
Over the last 18 years, on a rough estimate about 450 central and state government programmes, projects and national and state level institutions involving public expenditure of hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees have been named after these three individuals.
. . .
Among the big ticket programmes named after members of this family by the Union government to extract unjust electoral mileage is the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (rural electrification programme), which involves an outgo of Rs 28,000 crore during the Eleventh Plan period (Rs 5,500 crore in fiscal 2008-09). The drinking water mission, with an allocation of Rs 21,000 crore over three years (Rs 7,300 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 7,400 crore in 2009-10) is called the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission. Other schemes that bear his name are the Rajiv Gandhi National CrÃ¨che Scheme for Children of Working Mothers; Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana and the Rajiv Gandhi Shilpi Swasthya Bima Yojana (both insurance schemes).
Likewise, many mega programmes are named after Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.. The budgetary allocation for the Indira Awas Yojana to house the poor is Rs 7,919 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 7,914.70 crore in 2009-10. Also named after her is the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (Rs 3,443 cr in 2008- 09). Programmes named after Jawaharlal Nehru over the last two decades are the Jahawarlal Nehru Rojgar Yojana and the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.
The Union government proposes to spend Rs 50,000 crore over seven years on the latter mission.
This trend is even more apparent in the states, which have vied with each other to name programmes after these three members of the family whenever the Congress was in power. Here is a sample: Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme, Puducherry; Rajiv Ratna Awas Yojana, Delhi; Rajiv Arogyasri Health Insurance scheme, Andhra Pradesh; Rajiv Gandhi Computer Literacy Mission, Assam; Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Infrastructure Development Programme, Haryana; Rajiv Gandhi Vidyarthi Suraksha Yojana, Maharastra; Rajiv Gandhi Tourism Development Mission, Rajasthan; Indira Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and Indira Gandhi Landless Agriculture Labour Scheme, Maharashtra; Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana, Haryana; Indira Gandhi Calf-Rearing Scheme, Andhra Pradesh.
Obviously, the plan is to ensure maximum recall of Brand Congress among voters at every stage in life. Indira Gandhi comes in when the poor want a house subsidised and you think of Nehru when urban renewal comes into play. The Congress has taken its obsession with this family to such an extent that even calf-rearing schemes are named after them.
The list of 450 government programmes, schemes, institutions, etc, named after these three members of the family broadly fall into the following categories: Central government (12), state government (52), universities and educational institutions (98), ports and airports (6), awards, scholarships and fellowships (66), sports tournaments, trophies and stadia (47), national parks and sanctuaries (15), hospitals and medical institutions (39), national scientific and research institutions, chairs and festivals (37), roads, buildings and places (74).
Apart from violating the electoral law, the naming spree has crossed all limits of decency. Every major sports tournament has been named after the Nehru-Gandhis, as if nobody else matters, not even the greats in Indian sports. Such is the obsession of Congress governments with this family that they name Indiaâ€™s biggest open university after Indira Gandhi and name fellowships granted there after Rajiv Gandhi. For long years we have been familiar with the Fullbright scholarships. Now it is known as the Fullbright-Jawaharl al Nehru Scholarship.
We are unlikely to see anything so gross even in dictatorships such as North Korea.
This blatant attempt to package and market government programmes run on public money as munificent offerings from a single family to the people has made a mockery of the Model Code of Conduct drawn up by the Election Commission for observance by all political parties.
If you have to futz around naming everything after three people in a blatantly corrupt attempt at winning elections then you might be a third world country.