PATNA: When a section of the councillors of Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) wanted to rename the busiest crossing and commercial site in the Bihar capital, it looked like another confrontation in the making between the state’s ruling parties and the Opposition. But the renaming bid swiftly died as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar intervened.
It was Kabi Guru Rabindra Chowk, named after Nobel Prize-winning Bengali poet Rabindra Nath Tagore by the erstwhile RJD government led by Rabri Devi in 2002. The BJP-backed councillors of PMC, led by mayor Sita Sahu, had planned to move a proposal to rename the crossing after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee recently. After Nitish Kumar’s objection, the proposal was dropped from the agenda of a scheduled meeting of PMC’s empowered standing committee headed by the mayor.
But few in Patna know where Kabi Guru Rabindra Chowk stands in the city. The site is popularly known by its British-era name of Dak Bungalow Chowk. This centrally located main intersection of the city was officially renamed after the Nobel Laureate following a demand from the Bihar Bengali Association (BBA). During his visit to Patna in March 1936, Tagore had stayed at the grand Dak Bungalow for two days while his dance troupe presented Chitrangada, a dance drama he wrote. The Dak Bungalow was later razed to make space for Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Commercial Complex.
While the BBA’s protest against erasing Tagore’s name from the site played a role behind the renaming bid being quashed – Bengali-speakers account for a mere 0.78 per cent of the state’s population – it was Nitish Kumar’s desire to avoid a major political controversy on the issue that effectively did it, said sources.
PMC commissioner Anupam Kumar Suman said the civic body would shortly erect a statue of Tagore at the crossing and begin an effort to make Dak Bungalow crossing popular as Kavi Guru Rabindra Chowk.
Many major streets in Patna are still known by their British-era names even though they were renamed after freedom fighters by successive state governments. The two main roads joining at Rabindra Chowk – Jawaharlal Nehru Marg and Mazharul Haque Path – are still known popularly as Bailey Road and Fraser Road respectively.
“The old names fail to go away from people’s memory and popular use despite all efforts. We will begin a fresh exercise to popularise the new names of the roads,” said the PMC commissioner.