CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government has decreed that one of its well known cities – Gurgaon is to be renamed. While there is nothing new in this action, as many other state governments have done so in the past, such changes always have an ulterior political motive.

Politicians are of course a breed apart, but the Indian politicians ‘not only take their ladoos but eat them too’, to paraphrase a well known phrase, universally used! The difference is that most of our Chief Ministers change names of cities when an election is impending, in the hope that such a change would fetch some more votes.

It is for this reason that Madras, Poona, Bombay and Calcutta became Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Kolkata respectively. The list goes on and on! The other reason is when they want to rake up a controversy, so that people get involved in the pros and cons of the name change and forget, even if only temporarily, the omissions and commissions of the political leaders.

The Chief Minister of Haryana has probably done so on account of being mired in the fallout of the recent Jat Agitation!

In the absence of any empirical data, it is difficult to say whether such actions achieved their aims and to what extent, or it was a change only for change’s sake. Such major actions do have one benefit, which is that the leader can then boast that he is not a staid, run of the mill politician, but one who changes the status quo!.

Since Prime Minister Modi, having won a resounding electoral victory on his promise of ‘change’, has done nothing to change anything so far, the Chief Minister of Haryana is obviously one up on him.

The reason for name changes is not really material, for most people feel that it is one more idiosyncrasy of our politicians, as one has not heard of politicians of other countries resorting to such practices. Pakistan is of course an exception, but then Pakistan is not a country but a fiefdom of the Pakistani Army and hence one can never take them seriously. Having changed the old city of Lyallpur to Faisalabad in 1979 for no rhyme or reason, it is only recently that the bug has bitten them again. Thus, old North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Northern Areas in their adverse possession have been renamed for reasons that are vague.

Change is of course extremely important, as it makes us energetic, daring and perceptive, instead of staying cocooned in words and phrases coined centuries ago. It was William Shakespeare who had stated in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that ‘a rose by any other name will smell as sweet’, but Haryana seems to be even more courageous than the 17th Century Bard for initiating this change.

All of us are therefore pleased that the staid and ordinary Gurgaon is getting a makeover, if only in its name. However, is everyone enthused with calling it Gurugram, as mythology seems to indicate that the sage Dronacharya had his ashram here? May I in all humility suggest that there are bolder and better options, which are logical and reasonable?

Considering the long list of scams that have emanated from Gurgaon in the recent past, I first toyed with the idea of suggesting the new name as ‘Guru Ghantal’, but rejected it immediately, not only because it is slang, but is also totally politically inappropriate, for even foreigners understand that the reference is to a son in law of the nation, albeit out of favour in the new dispensation.

As I recall, it was Indira Gandhi in whose regime that ubiquitous phrase “Aaya Ram –Gaya Ram” was conceived and talked about even in Parliament. Those familiar with it would recall that it was used for those representatives of the people – both in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas, who hopped from one party to another for the filthy lucre and promises of power and pelf. Sadly, it seems to have come back now but since the courts have taken cognizance of this, there is hope for India!

The state of Haryana may not have produced a large number of such opportunistic politicos, but it was nonetheless in the forefront. Even now, the progeny of one of the earlier, if not the first one, did the ugly deed prior to the last general elections. While his party and loyalty changed, both his minister-hip and the chair remained the same! That is ‘chutzpa’ for you!

Considering the vast contributions of such party hoppers in chipping away all that was good in our democracy, I think we need to honour them by naming at least one city in their name. After all, the statue of the treasonous Krishna Menon of 1962 fame still stands in Lutyens’ Delhi. Gurgaon fits the bill by a long shot for its regular contribution by these phenomenal persons!

The public also appreciates that our burgeoning cities need to be made smaller and more manageable, so that the municipal authorities are able to give them all facilities for leading comfortable lives. If this proposition is accepted, it would be eminently suitable for the present Gurgaon to be split into two cities, with two different and independent municipal corporations.

We already have two Gurgaons – the old Gurgaon or Gurgawan as it was known earlier and which has existed for centuries; and the new one, also known as the millennium city.

The older one is staid and laid back, with inhabitants tracing their histories to many earlier generations. The new one is all glass, aluminium, chrome and modular kitchens; wide roads, albeit encroached and full of speed-breakers and potholes; and the abode of the nouveau riche. The residents include the progeny of farmers who had sold their lands to known and unknown developers and who are now a menace, especially after sun-down, for the residents. They need to be tamed so that the millennium city gets its much sought for stability and peace of mind.

The above two lacunae need to be tackled with a missionary zeal and vision. Since the political luminaries and their bureaucratic advisers apparently lack such vision, let me offer a simple solution, which kills not the proverbial two but three birds in one shot.

My suggestion is to also invoke the name of Lord Ram, who features in our earliest mythological tale – The Ramayan. Let the name of old Gurgaon be changed to “Gaya Ram” and of the millennium city to “Aaya Ram”. Not only will this honour all those who in the past have shown their prowess in party/government hopping, but also invoke the name of Lord Ram on a daily basis.

It will be welcomed by all the sants, gurus, pseudo God men/women, the Hindutva Brigade and of course those worthies who are headquartered at Nagpur. Haryana will then beat everyone and even will be one up on our Prime Minister, who despite his rhetoric and promises has still not been able to bring the promised Ram Rajya. If Haryana packages it well, it may even feature in one of the future ‘Man Ki Baats’ of our beloved Prime Minister!

The proposal is also likely to find favour with the blue-eyed boys (and girls) of the politicians, viz. the bureaucrats, as it has built-in precedences, which the bureaucracy adores. We already have Delhi- New Delhi; Hyderabad-Secunderabad; Pune-Kirkee; and many more. To top it all, we also have the Tri-city of Chandigarh-Panchkula-Mohali. These not only have their own municipal corporations, but also their own governments! The bureaucrats and police officers will also add new appointments like deputy commissioners, SP’s and a host of subordinates, which translates into more lucre!

My appeal to our illustrious Chief Minister is to consider my proposal with all the seriousness it deserves and change the name of Gurgaon with a visionary approach.

While honouring the famous sage Dronacharya of Mahabharat fame is well appreciated, but why not go the whole hog (Oops- I have used a politically inappropriate word). So, please read it as ‘going the whole ‘sab cheez’, as we say in the army! Since the aim is to go back in history, let us go way-way-way back and invoke Lord Ram and also make the city more manageable by having two entities. That is a triple benefit!!

Jai Sri Ram.

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff) (This photograph taken by Rith Fremson was carried by The New York Times }