When a hullabaloo broke out soon after it was revealed that the world’s largest stadium in Ahmedabad, the Motera, was renamed the Narendra Modi stadium, the BJP and Central government were absolutely correct when they pointed out that they were not the first to name a stadium or an airport after a political leader. After all, the Congress takes the cake in this.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the Rajiv Chowk metro station, all located in Delhi, are just some examples of public spaces named after the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The BJP can argue, and rightly so, that there was no big fuss when these were named after the erstwhile first family. Neither did the progressive liberals nor left-leaning advocates of an egalitarian society cry foul then, so what’s the big deal now, the ruling party said.
It can also be argued that the practice of naming airports, towns or stadia after political leaders is not an exclusive domain of India. Two of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, the John F Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle airports in New York and Paris respectively, get their names from former Presidents of the US and France.
But that said, unlike India, there is no fetish abroad to rechristen stadia or airports after politicians. Some of the biggest and most famous sporting arenas such as Wimbledon, Camp Nou, Lord’s and Old Trafford have not been named after political leaders. Nor are major international airports such as Beijing, Dubai, Heathrow or Los Angeles.
It is perhaps time to ponder if any purposeful need is served, even narrow political ones, by naming almost anything after political leaders or icons. If changing the names of towns, stadia, airports, hospitals, schools, colleges and government schemes after political leaders helped win elections, then the Congress would not have been reduced to just the 50-odd seats in the Lok Sabha. Nor can the Dalits hope to live a life of dignity and equal opportunities by simply renaming Amroha, a town in Uttar Pradesh, to Jyotiba Phule Nagar. It’s time to stop pandering to someone’s vanity or indulging in mere symbolism. It neither wins votes nor is it a shining example of good governance.