Rajasthan: Will changing 'Muslim names' of villages help BJP consolidate Hindu votes?
With not much to show in terms of achievements, Vasundhara Raje seems to be resorting to polarising measures.
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The BJP in Rajasthan seems to have pressed the panic button. Unable to achieve much in terms of development, it has apparently decided to polarise voters, trying to divide them along communal lines.
And in this bid, it has decided to rechristen several villages, from their current “Muslim-sounding” names to more “Hindu-sounding” ones. As if that can bring respite to the miseries of the common man, and make them forget all that this government promised and has been unable to achieve in its rule of more than four-and-a-half years!
BJP chief Amit Shah was in Rajasthan only last week to lend weight to Vasundhara Raje's poll campaign. (Photo: PTI)
The move was formally adopted after the state government received clearance from the Union home ministry.
So now, Ismailpur in Jhunjhunu district becomes Pichanwa Khurd, Narpura is the new name for Narpada in Jalore district, and Miyan Ka Bara in Barmer has been renamed Mahesh Nagar.
The central government has begun the process of changing the names of around 15 villages on the basis of recommendations made by the state government’s revenue department, which has issued a gazette notification on the change.
According to the Rajasthan government, the names are being changed on the basis recommendations made at the Panchayat level. Several villagers have claimed that their demand for the name change has been long-standing, but is being paid heed to only now.
The process of formalising the name change at the ground level has already begun. The signboards pertaining to Miyan Ka Bada are being removed, and replaced with that of Mahesh Nagar.
State revenue minister Amra Ram said: “There are three Muslim families in Miyan Ka Bada. In this scenario, why should its name be ‘Miyan Ka Bara’? We have gone in for the name change only after going through a proper process.”
The Congress in Rajasthan has accused the BJP of using the measure as a diversionary tactic in a bid to polarise voters ahead of the elections.
“The BJP always divides people to extract political benefit,” said Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief.
Rajasthan is set to witness Assembly elections this year, where much is at stake for both the BJP and the Congress.
Sachin Pilot has termed the name change move a ploy to divide voters along communal lines. (Photo: PTI/file)
The BJP has been trying hard to communicate its “achievements” to the people on the ground. Party chief Amit Shah himself had flagged off the BJP’s ‘Gaurav Yatra’ in the state, with a massive rally held with CM Vasundhara Raje in Rajsamand district on August 4.
The Congress, on the other hand, will have party president Rahul Gandhi in the state on August 11, in a bid to give a boost to its poll campaign.
The move to go in for the name changes comes at a time when Raje, perceived to have become unpopular, is helming the party during a crucial election year.
The party is also battling massive anti-incumbency, manifest in the losses during the Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls held earlier this year.
Consider this: The BJP’s candidate from Ajmer constituency lost to the Congress’s candidate by more than 84,000 votes. It is a seat the BJP had won by more than 1.70 lakh votes in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, as Sachin Pilot suffered a humiliating defeat.
In Alwar, the ruling party’s candidate lost by a margin of more than 1.96 lakh votes. It is a seat the BJP had won by close to 2.84 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In Mandalgarh Assembly by-poll, the Congress candidate defeated the BJP’s by more than 12,000 votes. That in a seat where the Congress was in a tight spot, as a party leader decided to contest as an Independent and cut into its votes.
Whether the decision to change the names of villages helps the BJP electorally by consolidating Hindu votes is something only time can tell. But the move is clearly fraught with the possibility of further dividing the masses along communal lines, in an already vitiated atmosphere.