Name games

Last week, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar circulated a note to all government ministries asking them to refrain from indiscriminately naming different schemes after past national leaders, particularly Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. This will hopefully act as a welcome check on eager Congress ministers rushing to name their pet schemes after one of the past leaders of the Congress from the Nehru-Gandhi family, in a bid to please their present leaders, who also come from the same family. Ministers all too often see real political dividend in naming a populist scheme after the Nehru-Gandhis, thereby giving it a definitive signature which cannot be the appropriated by the government of another party, either at the Centre or in states. Whatever the motive, the fact is that there are already plenty of government schemes, at the Centre and in the states — some estimates suggest over 150 —that are named after the troika of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Can the cabinet secretary's note signal a serious change in direction? For one, it must have been authorised at the highest level of the government — the cabinet secretary reports to the prime minister. So, the circular could have political weight behind it.

More interesting is the reasoning behind the "directive." The government, it seems, would not like the names of iconic leaders from the past to be used to describe schemes whose "implementation and impact are not always as they ought to be." Everyone is well aware that barring an exceptional few, most government schemes leave a lot to be desired. It can only be counter-productive to have a flop scheme named after a heavyweight leader. It is, therefore, in eminent political self-interest to be more careful while naming a scheme. It remains to be seen if all the Congress ministers view it the same way.

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