Three years after the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh rolled back a move to rename the state capital Bhopal as Bhojpal, the local civic body has framed a proposal to name 19 newly created zones primarily after Sangh Parivar figures and leaders without any close association to the city.
The proposal by the newly elected mayor-in-council led by mayor Alok Sharma of the BJP has drawn the ire of the opposition Congress, which has described it as another move to “saffronise” the city.
Detractors of the proposal have pointed out that none of the zones will be named after personalities from the minority communities. Late President Shankar Dayal Sharma, who was born in Bhopal, and nawabs and begums from the royal family that once ruled the lake city too do not find a place in the list.
The proposal for naming the 19 zones is part of the agenda for a meeting of the mayor-in-council of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) scheduled for March 19. Hindustan Times accessed a copy of the agenda, which lists Veer Savarkar, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Kushabhau Thakre and Vijayaraje Scindia among the personalities after whom the zones will be named.
Senior Congress corporator Mohammad Sagher said, "This move clearly shows that the BJP wants to saffronise the city. They have ignored the begums, nawabs and even eminent personalities like former president Shankar Dayal Sharma while giving names to zones.
“As the BJP doesn't have problems with Rani Kamlapati, Sant Hirdaram and Raja Bhoj, they have included their names. Their bias is clear."
Sagher said the BJP had also ignored those who developed Bhopal. “They have brought all the personalities and leaders of the Jan Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha and are naming zones after people who had nothing to do with Bhopal. We will oppose this step in the council," he said.
Besides generating political heat, the proposal has been opposed by historians, who said it could destroy the legacy of the rulers of Bhopal and the city’s history.
Noted historian Syed Akhtar Hussain said, "It is an insult to the walled city which has many heritage sites and historical monuments named after different historical personalities.
“In Bhopal, areas are identified after historic buildings and rulers like Imami Gate, Peer Gate, Fatehgarh, Hamidia, Shahjehanabad, Jehangirabad, Moti Masjid and Jumerati. They want to distort historical facts. At least they shouldn't interfere with the identity of the city.”
Mohammed Saud, an independent coporator, said, "Earlier, they used to show an indifferent attitude towards citizens of old Bhopal, but now they are heading towards ending the identity of the city. Through this type of conduct, they have shown they are biased towards one particular religion.”
Senior BJP corporator KM Soni, also a member of the mayor-in-council, dismissed the charges by the opposition.
“Our motive was not to insult anybody. Earlier, we wanted to change the name of the city but the Congress was in a majority and so we failed. This time, the mayor showed his concern and we support him. We are not changing names of areas. We have just given names to new zones," he said.
The BJP has a clear majority in the 85-member BMC with 55 corporators, while the Congress has only 26 seats. Four seats were won by independent candidates in polls last month.
On March 1, 2011, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had proposed that the name of Bhopal be changed to Bhojpal to honour Raja Bhoj, a ruler of the Malwa kingdom of the 11th century who founded the city of Bhojpur. Later, the centre rejected the proposal.
In 2006, then chief minister Uma Bharti too had tried to rename Bhopal.
Zone 1 Sant Hirdaram Nagar, a sant of the Sindhi community
Zone 2 Maharaja Agrasen, king and religious guru of Vaishya community
Zone 3 Maharishi Valmiki, a poet
Zone 4 Veer Savarkar, right wing leader during the freedom struggle
Zone 5 Rani Kamlapati, ruler of Bhopal before the nawabs
Zone 6 Bhim Rao Ambedkar, social reformer and Dalit leader
Zone 7 Chhatrapati Shivaji, Maratha king and warrior
Zone 8 Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, freedom fighter and politician
Zone 9 Kushabhau Thakre, RSS leader
Zone 10 Lord Mahavir, last Jain teerthankar
Zone 11 Subash Chandra Bose, freedom fighter
Zone 12 Vijayaraje Scindia, BJP leader
Zone 13 Swami Vivekanand, spiritual leader
Zone 14 Raja Bhoj, medieval period ruler of Malwa kingdom
Zone 15 Chandrashekhar Azad, freedom fighter
Zone 16 Maharani Laxmi Bai, freedom fighter
Zone 17 Bhagat Singh, freedom fighter
Zone 18 Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Bharitiya Jan Sangh
Zone 19 Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay, one of the founder leaders of the BJP.