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Khel Ratna: The BJP plays too nice and that needs to change

Instead of justifying the decision to rename the award, or defending the name Narendra Modi stadium, BJP supporters should just enjoy the helpless rage of Congress loyalists

Along with hundreds of millions of Indians, I was delighted when the BJP swept to power in May 2014. The party of the Nehru-Gandhis had been reduced to a rump. They did not even have enough seats to be recognized as the official opposition party. For a generation that had been taught in schools to believe that the Nehru-Gandhis own the sky, it was a moment to relish.

Soon after, there was a photo taken in the Central Hall of Parliament, showing PM Modi taking Rahul Gandhi by the hand. The photo was all over TV channels and the next day it was in every newspaper. I know it was supposed to be a show of unity and grace. But I will be honest with you. That photograph made me very angry. Why?

Consider this. As soon as Sonia Gandhi came to power in 2004, her government removed a memorial plaque for Savarkar in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Congress party hates Savarkar. And they made sure everyone knew. And they made sure that the defeated BJP, which sees Savarkar as an icon, was duly humiliated. They did not care about the pettiness of the actions. They knew how to rub it in.

The Congress party did not care how the BJP or its supporters felt. At the time, there were state elections coming up in Maharashtra within three months. Congress did not even care about the electoral implications. They had won, and they would make sure everyone on the losing side felt the pinch.

This is what I call the ruthlessness gap between the Nehru-Gandhis and the BJP. I do not recall any show of grace or humility from Sonia Gandhi when she got power in 2004. Or at any point in the entire decade when she held power from 2004 to 2014. At the official independence day celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2012, BJP veterans such as Lal Krishna Advani were not even offered a chair to sit on. They were made to stand outside the enclosure.

That is why yesterday was so satisfying. As soon as PM Modi announced that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award would be renamed after Major Dhyan Chand, the Congress and its loyalists erupted in helpless rage. The optics of the occasion was just so perfect, with the men’s hockey team winning a medal at the Olympics after 41 years. So the Congress loyalists had to welcome the decision. At the same time, they fumed at the recently named Narendra Modi stadium in Amdavad.

It was wonderful to watch them squirming and helpless, seething on the inside. Now that the Khel Ratna has also been named after Dhyan Chand, what will happen to the existing Dhyan Chand award for excellence in sport, created by Vajpayee government in 2002? One liberal Hindi language anchor wanted to know.

Good question. Indeed, each time the Congress names something else after Rajiv Gandhi, what happens to all the roads, bridges, colleges and airports already named after him? Two things named after the same person? How?

Yes, the Nehru-Gandhi loyalists are so angry that they have lost their minds. This is wonderful. For once, the BJP did not play nice.

Now, there are two ways to play this, pun intended. You could get into a technical argument, pointing out that Narendra Modi stadium in Amdavad is actually privately owned and so on. You could point to liberal privilege. The Nehru-Gandhis have named a thousand things after themselves, all across this land. Now that they have lost elections, they want a new era of idealism in choosing names for various things?

Or you could make this fun. So what if the BJP did indeed change the name of the Khel Ratna award to humiliate the Congress party? Would that be so wrong? Why can’t the BJP be like the Congress for once? The decision to rename the award is not something that affects public policy nor does it cost public money. This is neither illegal nor does it violate any rights or freedoms mentioned in the constitution. What if this is just a way for the BJP to remind the Nehru-Gandhis who won the 2019 election? A way to remind them and rub it in. Would that be wrong?

Instead of justifying the decision to rename the award, or defending the name Narendra Modi stadium, how about BJP supporters just enjoying the helpless rage of Congress loyalists? Because their reactions were downright hilarious.

One loyalist in particular vowed ‘revenge.’ As soon as Congress comes back to power, they will remove the names of BJP leaders from everything. Scared yet, BJP?

Ha! As if Congress needed this provocation. The day Congress gets even a toehold in power again, they will do it anyway. We are talking about the Congress here, which refused to celebrate Kargil Victory Day because that war was fought under a BJP government! You think the Congress would spare names of BJP politicians in public places, so as not to hurt the sentiments of BJP supporters? Funny.

One “senior editor” for a news portal was similarly incensed. The PM said he has honoured the wishes of citizens who wanted him to name the Khel Ratna after Major Dhyan Chand. What of those citizens who want the name of Narendra Modi stadium changed?

Well, madam senior editor, those citizens don’t get to have their way. That’s how elections work. One group wins and the other loses. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and their personal freedoms. For everything else, one group of citizens gets their way and the other does not. You are welcome to try and get things to go your way in 2024, when there will be another free and fair election. And if history is anything to go by, you won’t be shy of exercising power if your side gets to win.

In many ways, elections are like the Olympic Games. You get to compete on an even keel against everyone else. But only the winner gets a medal. The losing side can cry as much as they want. But it doesn’t mean that the winner has to share the medal with you.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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