New Delhi: In what political observers see as a street-smart move, BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi has proposed the renaming of the city's Race Course Road as Ekatma Marg to honour the philosophy of her party's icon Deendayal Upadhyaya. AAP MLA Surinder Singh on Tuesday said he would oppose the move to rename the Race Course Road, on which the Prime Minister’s official residence is located.
The New Delhi Municipal Council will consider on Wednesday the plan pitched by Lekhi, who is a member of the civic body that has jurisdiction over Lutyens' Delhi and the road on which the Prime Minister's official residence is located.
The proposal that's likely to spur a political controversy comes about a year after the NDMC renamed Aurangzeb Road as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road in honour of the late President based on a suggestion from city BJP MP Maheish Girri.
The ruling party and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS, have been pushing for a slew of such name changes, terming this a bid to highlight Indian culture and cleanse foreign influence. Critics, however, see it as an attempt to rewrite India's history and extend the Sangh's cultural influence.
"The existing name, Race Course Road, does not match with Indian culture, Lekhi said. "It should be changed to 'Ekatma Marg' as the Prime Minister's Residence, 7 RCR, is here and it would remind every PM (to care for) the last person in the society."
Race Course Road was named after the Delhi race course, part of the Delhi Race Club, established in 1940. Upadhyay's followers remember him for the concept of Ekatma Manav Darshan, or integral humanism. The Centre will observe his 100th birth anniversary on September 25.
"Many roads/institutions have been renamed in the past to honour our great men and women. This includes Connaught Circus to Indira Chowk, Connaught Place to Rajiv Chowk, Canning Road to Madhav Rao Scindia Marg and Aurangzeb Road to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road recently," Lekhi said.
Senior NDMC officials told that more celebrations are planned across New Delhi. The RSS has sought permission for a programme at Connaught Place's Central Park on September 25. Cultural events including street plays would be held, aiming to make the youth aware of Upadhyaya's thoughts.
Senior BJP leaders are likely to be present. Upadhyay is best remembered for his concept of Antyodaya (serving the last man in the queue), after which the Centre's Antyodaya Anna Yojana, a food scheme, is named. "We have received this request (for name change) from many in the public too. We must respect their sentiments," said NDMC vice-chairperson and BJP leader Karan S Tanwar.
The city's ruling Aam Aadmi Party, though, has rejected the renaming proposal. Commando Surinder Singh, MLA from Delhi Cantonment and NDMC member, said he would vehemently oppose the move in Wednesday's meeting, and instead proposed that Race Course Road be renamed as Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon Road after the Param Vir Chakra awardee.
"Race Course Road has an Indian Air Force Station and martyr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon stayed here for a long time," he said. "This camp (on Race Course Road) belongs to him. Governments will come and go but another Sekhon will not come."