The government in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat has decided to change the name of dragon fruit as it feels the original name is associated with China, drawing derision from the country’s opposition on Wednesday.
India and China are currently locked in a military standoff along their contested Himalayan border, with New Delhi responding to the deaths of 20 of its troops in June by banning Chinese-made apps and curbing imports.
“The Gujarat government has decided… the word dragon fruit is not appropriate, and is associated with China. The fruit’s shape is like a lotus, and hence we have given it a new Sanskrit name, kamalam. There is nothing political about it,” Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani told media on Tuesday.
The lotus, or kamal as it is called in Hindi, is the symbol of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The fruit will henceforth be known as kamalam in the state, said Rupani, who is from the BJP.
The development comes a few months after Modi had praised farmers in a radio programme for cultivating the dragon fruit in the arid region of Kutch in Gujarat.
“After that the farmers had approached me, and suggested changing the name of dragon fruit to kamalam,” Vinod Chavda, the BJP Member of Parliament from Kutch, told Reuters.
“I am happy that the state has accepted the proposal.”
There are more than 200 farmers in Kutch alone who are growing dragon fruit over 1,500 acres, said Haresh Thakkar, a farmer from the region.
“The Indian name of the fruit will bring more happiness to us. We feel that the acceptance level of the fruit will also increase if it is looked upon as an Indian fruit,” said Thakkar, who has been growing dragon fruit for five years.
The fruit is also grown in neighbouring Maharashtra state and in northeastern India. There was no sign that local governments there were planning any name change.
The opposition Congress called the name change a gimmick.
“The government has nothing worthwhile to show as achievements, and is trying to divert attention from real issues,” Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.