Narendra Modi Stadium: Justifiable?

Updated: May 6

The Narendra Modi Stadium, formerly known as the Motera Stadium, is located in Gujarat. As of 2020, it is the largest cricket stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity. It can accommodate up to 1,10,000 people. Owned by the Gujarat Cricket Association, it plays host to test matches, ODIs, and T20I matches. The stadium was constructed in 1983 and got its first renovation in 2006. In 2015 it was completely demolished to be built again; it was one of the largest projects till now in India. It was completely built by February 2020. On the 24th day of February 2021, the stadium was renamed the Narendra Modi Stadium, which created quite a stir in the public as well as the politicians of the country. Udhav Thackrey took a dig at this situation and publicly said that “India will never lose a match here”, there were a plethora of conjectures that followed the renaming. Various opposition leaders had criticised the Centre. Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi had accused Modi of crony capitalism and the two bowling ends being called “Reliance” and “Adani”. West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee had also criticised the name change.

Rahul Gandhi openly condemned this move without considering that his family was responsible for this trend of naming things after them, the Gandhi-Nehru family has been doing that forever and nothing has changed, in every town, there is a street or a colony named after them, the capital of Gujarat is named Gandhinagar. It had been noted that around 450 different schemes, projects, and institutions were named after the Gandhi-Nehru family, there are 12 central and 52 state schemes, 28 sports tournaments and trophies, 19 stadiums, 5 airports and ports, 98 educational institutions, 51 awards, 15 fellowships, 15 national sanctuaries and parks, 39 hospitals and medical institutions, 74 roads, buildings and places named after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi alone.

Naming and renaming of public spaces are a complicated and political business in most countries, especially in India. After Independence, we saw a flurry of name changes as India sought to physically erase the markers of the colonial legacy. In Delhi, names of landmark roads were changed — Kingsway to Rajpath and Queensway to Janpath, for instance. This was also true in Kolkata, once the second city of the empire, where, over the years, British names were assiduously dispensed with. So, Dalhousie Square, named after the Governor-General Dalhousie, in the heart of the city, was renamed Binoy Badal Dinesh Bagh. Numerous other city landmarks were also peremptorily renamed. For instance, the name of Minto Park, named for a former viceroy, was changed to Shaheed Bhagat Singh Udyan. More interestingly, Auckland Square, named after yet another governor-general, was changed to Benjamin Moloise Square after the South African poet[1].

BJP had condemned the move of Congress because of their naming of things after one family only. BJP has contradicted its statement after the renaming, but some people believe that this was the right move, Motera Stadium reconstruction was Narendra Modi’s dream project even before he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. After the construction, it was seen appropriate to name it after him, in reality, people like to be remembered, and considering it was his dream project it seemed justifiable.

However justified the naming is, the question always arises that why are not the stadiums named after cricketers, the people who associate most with the grounds are cricketers, as they spend more than half of their lives playing in these grounds - they -practically grow up there, then why not name it after them and honour some of the most important cricketers, the stadiums which are named after the minsters does not seem appropriate as they come in power for a few years, maybe stayed ministers for life, did not do any revolutionary work and died with their name up on stadiums.

Some cricketers have taken the game to altogether another level, the outlook of cricket has changed greatly over the past 2 decades, however not one stadium has been named after them. Bollywood, however, biased at least made the time to honour these cricketers by sharing their stories with the world. When other sports are considered, two hockey stadiums are honouring Major Dhyan Chand, and a football stadium is named after the former Indian captain, Bhaichung Bhutia. Football which was recognised, ages after cricket, as an important sport in India has a stadium after its former captain, the cricket captains have taken the sport to amazing levels and there is still no recognition. The naming of stadiums after politicians does not give it a great history as well, imagine if foreign nationals come to India and asked why is a stadium named after a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family, the answer would be because the family was in power and they named it, if the places are named after cricketers it would give the stadiums history, like a stadium named after MS Dhoni, because he did his famous helicopter shot there, or maybe after Sachin Tendulkar, who is and always be the cricket legend of this nation, or after Kapil Dev who was the captain responsible for the first-ever World Cup won by India.

Politics has now taken an ugly route in India; it is more important for politicians to condemn the moves of other parties rather than focussing on the development of the nation, when the Narendra Modi stadium became a thing there were a lot of discussions that followed, saying that this should not have happened and this was a dirty move by the Modi Government, but it is always noted that whatever happens, whichever party is in power, the other parties will take a dig at them.

As Niccolo Machiavelli rightly says “Politics have no relation to morals”, politicians have forgotten the meaning of politics, in the case of renaming of the stadium it was justified in the sense that it was Narendra Modi’s dream project, however, it would have been well received and been better if it was named after a cricketer whose entire life happened at such stadiums.


[1] https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/the-politics-of-naming-and-renaming-public-spaces-in-india-101614520459026.html

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