Monday, October 25, 2010

Ram Guha on Politicians and Public Projects

Ram Guha's latest HT column -- That Family Feeling -- is about the wide gulf between Nehru's views and those of the ruling Gandhi family on naming public projects after their family members. The contrast is between

[Jawaharlal Nehru] had taken a vow that in the case of any school, project, or programme started in memory of his father (Motilal Nehru) or his wife, he would not participate in its inauguration.


At last count, some 400 government initiatives, institutions, projects and programmes were named after either Nehru, Indira or Rajiv.

In editorializing on this contrast, Guha takes an oblique swipe:

Jawaharlal Nehru would surely have been appalled by this use (or misuse) of public money for furthering ancestor worship. His rectitude and propriety stands in striking contrast to the behaviour of later members of his family. But it stands in contrast to the attitude of most other Indians too. For instance, one of India’s best-known scientists actually attended the inauguration of a circle named after himself in Bangalore.

The later Nehru-Gandhis may think that the ubiquitous naming of programmes and places after members of their family is not much more than their due. But that distinguished men of science fall prey to such vanity is a sign of how far we have moved from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru. [Bold emphasis added].

Some of you may know that the traffic round-about in front of the main gates of IISc is called "Professor C.N.R. Rao Circle". I don't know what it was called earlier, but it took its new name in the late 1990s.


  1. Rahul Basu said...

    Poetic justice: the circle itself disappeared soon after, did it not?

  2. Vijay said...

    Hi Rahul
    Still there. The circle was merely squared. Just as Mekhri circle was squared earlier.

  3. truti said...

    TAB, do you know that the new campus of BHU - your school - across the river has been named after - you are right - Rajiv Gandhi?!! The founder of BHU, Dr. Malaviya who literally begged to fund the university, its illustrious VCs (including Dr. Radhakrishnan) in the meanwhile get by with a statue here and a plaque there. What an outrage it is to name the new Hyderabad airport after Rajiv Gandhi, the self-same Gandhi whose public humiliation of the late T.Anjiah piqued the citizens of AP to vote out the Congress! They could have named the airport after T.Prakasam, or Alluri Seeta Rama Raju or the many founders of modern AP.

  4. Abi said...

    @Rahul: Yes, the circle is gone. While three roads meet at that point (4 if you add the road coming from the Institute), there's no round-about. At peak hours, every square-cm of that area -- much like the other circle named after another icon from Karnataka, Anil Kumble -- has some vehicle standing on it.

    @Vijay: What square are you talking about?

  5. Vijay said...

    @Abi Re: square
    Just a joke about two signs ‘Mekhri Circle’ and Mekhri Square’ seen near each other, thereby squaring the circle. Ram Guha mentioned Kumble circle in a conversation. Anil Kumble was present at the naming ceremony, apparently, but Guha (tongue in cheek?) thought that 10 wickets in an innings (was that why he got the circle? ) allowed the exception. Will be difficult even for CNR to match that requirement.