Anil Dharker, the chemical engineer turned journalist, once wrote a famous TV review in the now-defunct Sunday Observer, in which he wrote Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi a few hundred times from start to finis to drive home the Rajiv Gandhi overkill on the State-owned broadcaster Doordarshan.
Rajiv Gandhi is now history, but life imitates art in strange ways. Congress governments at the Centre and in the States have made it their life’s mission to immoralise Rajiv Gandhi‘s name till kingdom come, with project after project after project being named after the late prime minister with monotonous imagination.
Question: How many projects in the country are named after Rajiv Gandhi?
It is the eternal, inviolable law of democracy: You serve the people meaningfully, they will reward you with votes; you fool the people, they will bide their time to punish you.
This law was dramatically in evidence in this year’s election. Congress gained significantly because it was seen actively promoting a programme that helped jobless masses, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
It was not politics, but service.
Alas, it is now going to be politics. Recognising the voter appeal of the programme, state government leaders began exploiting what was a hundred percent centrally sponsored scheme. Mayawati has launched a campaign in UP with her portrait in all publicity material as though it is her idea and her implementation.
But this is a game the Congress can play more brazenly than any other party.
In order to stop others from hijacking its scheme, the Congress is now moving to put an indelible party stamp on it. It plans to name the programme after, who else, Rajiv Gandhi.
Will Mayawati lend her portrait to publicise Rajiv Gandhi?
Naming a government-funded public programme after a single leader is an established Congress trick. We have always been aware of Indira Gandhi This and Rajiv Gandhi That.
Journalist A. Surya Prakash now shows us how this has grown into a national disease. In a petition to the Election Commission, he has listed 450 central and State government activities named after three members of the dynasty Jawaharlal, Indira and Rajiv.
It’s a frightening list.
He questions the political morality of attaching a politician’s name to government programmes aimed at improving the lives of citizens. The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Yojana (with government funding of Rs 28,000 crore), and the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission (Rs 21,000 crore over three years) give the impression that Rajiv Gandhi is to be thanked for the electricity and the water that citizens get.
Surya Prakash cites the case of an ambulance service in Andhra that provides emergency help quickly and efficiently. The expenditure is borne out of public funds, but each of the 650 ambulances carries a portrait of Rajiv Gandhi on both sides of the vehicle with the legend Rajiv Arogyasri thus giving the impression that this ambulance service is a gift of Rajiv Gandhi and his party to the people of Andhra.
By contrast, only the Backward Region Development Fund is named after Mahatma Gandhi. And not a single central programme is named after Ambedkar or Sardar Patel whose roles as builders of India remain unique.
In the dynastic naming spree, even Jawaharlal Nehru looks like an after-thought.
The formidable listing ranges from Indira Gandhi Calf Rearing Scheme and Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana (Haryana) to Rajiv Gandhi Kabaddi Tournament, Rajiv Gandhi Wrestling Gold Cup, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium (three in Kerala alone), Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship for SC/ST, Rajiv Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary, Rajiv Gandhi Mission on Food Security, Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme (Pondicherry), Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute.
There’s even a peak in the Himalayas named Mount Rajiv.
The latest addition explains why and how this happens. Sharad Pawar, at a loose end with his NCP getting nowhere, has been anxious to curry Sonia Gandhi‘s favour.
So he proposed that the new sea bridge in Bombay be named Rajiv Sethu. And so it was, scheming politicians turning India into a family estate.
At this rate, Bharat may soon be re-named Rajiv Rajya.