In renaming Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station, BJP’s tribal outreach

The new name, intended to honour the bravery and legacy of Rani Kamlapati, was announced by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan ahead of Modi's visit to Bhopal on Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas or Tribal Pride Day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Monday inaugurate Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station, which has been renamed after Rani Kamlapati, the first Gond queen of Bhopal.

The new name, intended to honour the bravery and legacy of Rani Kamlapati, was announced by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ahead of Modi’s visit to Bhopal on Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas or Tribal Pride Day.

According to historians from Bhopal, the station was named Habibganj after Habibullah, the grandson of Nawab Shahjahan Begum. “In those days, a measure of land was given to royals as their ‘dugh kharch’. An village was settled in Shahpura, the land that was given to Habibullah. When a railway line was built through the area in 1874-76, a small station came up. In 1969 the family of Habibullah gave land and Rs 15 lakh to develop the station. Hence, it came to be known as Habibganj after Habibullah himself,” historian Rizwanuddin Ansari said.

The decision to rename the station, developed at a cost of Rs 440 crore on a PPP model, reflects an attempt by the BJP to regain some of the ground that it lost among tribal and Scheduled Caste voters in the Assembly elections of 2018. The Gonds, who number more than 1.2 crore, are India’s largest tribal group.

In September, the state government named a university in Chhindwara after tribal icons Shankar Shah and Raghunath Shah, and is building a memorial to them. A memorial to Tantya Mama has been established in Khandwa, and one to Bhima Nayak in Barwani district.

Chief Minister Chouhan on Sunday announced the Raja Sangram Shah annual award of Rs 5 lakh to be given in the field of tribal art and culture.


The opposition Congress has accused the BJP of playing votebank politics, and reminded the ruling party that Chouhan himself had earlier demanded the station be named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Two days before the renaming of the station, Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur had tweeted Thursday: “The arrival of the Prime Minister on 15/11/2021…is a good omen for Bhopal. I am sure Modiji will announce the renaming of Habibganj railway station after Vajpayeeji and fulfill my old request.”

Leader of Opposition Kamal Nath said, “It’s fine if you have renamed the station in memory of the Gond queen, but what about her mahal in Sehore which is lying in ruins?”

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