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Are the BJP, TMC reducing Netaji's clan to mere political pawns?

Somi Das | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:30 IST

On January 21, 2016, just two days before Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's 119th birth anniversary and the grand show that the Narendra Modi government had planned to commemorate the day, a rebellion and mass resignation crisis struck the Forward Bloc, the left-leaning party started by the freedom fighter.

As many as eight Central Committee members of the Forward Bloc, including the state presidents of some states, resigned from the party on the ground that the political outfit was no longer driven by ideologies of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. They also announced the formation of a separate party, the Samajwadi Forward Bloc.

Read More: Netaji died in 1945: 5 pieces of clinching evidence given by UK website

The crisis hardly made news. After all, the Forward Bloc, despite being the a legacy of Netaji, is a mere constituent of the many Left parties only relevant due to its part in the political arithmetic it plays in a couple of states.

However, what did make news, in a matter of just another couple of days, was Subhash Chandra Bose's grandnephew Chandra Bose joining the BJP in a massive rally in Howrah, addressed by none other than Amit Shah. Chandra Bose has been at the forefront praising Narendra Modi for declassifying 100 files related to Netaji.

He is also of the view that the Congress has destroyed many important files related to the freedom fighter, something he says the family has documentary evidence of.

While it is difficult to say whether his claims will eventually lead to solving the mystery surrounding Netaji's death, Chandra Bose, a former Tata Steel employee might just land a ticket in the upcoming Assembly Elections. When Bose was asked exactly why he was joining the right-wing party, his answer was rather evasive.

For the BJP, which has been trying for a foothold in the poll-bound West Bengal, the Subhash Chandra Bose mystery is fast becoming an important political strategy. And their recent association with the Bose family has been a major part of that plan, as well.

When BJP wooed the Bose family

In September 2015, Narendra Modi announced on his All India Radio radio show, Mann-ki-Baat, that he had invited the entire Bose clan to his residence. However, he remained silent on whether the Centre would release classified files related to Netaji -- a decision that didn't just concern the Bose family, but the entire nation too. It was only after meeting the family members did Modi announce his decision of declassifying the files.

In the two major election rallies held in the state recently, one in Howrah addressed by Shah and the other in Barasat, addressed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the leaders were insistent on the fact that the Narendra Modi government declassified the Netaji files while the Congress had been sitting on it since years.

Now having someone from the Bose clan, who is evidently a Congress basher, in its fold, creates a win-win situation for the prospective candidate as well as the BJP.

Mamata too laid claims on 'son of the soil'

Moving to the other end of the political spectrum in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress too is hell bent on playing the game of political upmanship on the issue of Netaji's death. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tried to take the moral high ground on the issue last year, releasing over 60 classified files in possession of her state.

Till then, the Narendra Modi government had been promising that it would declassify the documents. However, Mamata, sensing the political benefits that could result from such a move, trumped the BJP. Eventually, the BJP too followed suit, releasing the secret files 70 years after Netaji's death on the highly symbolic day of 23 January, 2016.

But Banerjee, not one to be outdone, didn't want to loosen her grip on Subhas Chandra Bose, whom she describes as Bengal's son of the soil. Just a week before the Narendra Modi government was to release the much-awaited Netaji files, Mamata Banerjee made a great show of the 75th anniversary of Great Escape -- an episode of great significance in Netaji's life when he dramatically escaped from the house arrest of Britishers in Kolkata in 1941.

Accompanied by Krishna Bose, Netaji's niece, who is also a former Trinamool MP from Jadavpur, Banerjee declared that she was sure that Netaji didn't die in the 1945 Taipei plane crash. She also demanded that the Modi government must force the Russian government to release 'intelligence files' related to him.

Krishna Bose's son and historian Sugata Bose, who currently represents TMC from Jadavpur wasn't too excited about Narendra Modi releasing all the files. His first grouse was that not all but just 100 files had been released. And second, he said the declassified files would only reveal "attitude of some government employees towards Netaji".

He also stayed away from the ceremony in Delhi where the files were released by Narendra Modi. The Economic Times quoted him as saying: "Rather than attending the ceremony in Delhi, I felt that I should remain present at the Netaji Research Bureau founded by my father."

The cold vibes between this faction of the Bose family and the Centre is not difficult to spot.

Forward Bloc remains neglected

While Bose's family members are now splintered across political parties of all ideologies, lets come back to where we began. The current crisis in the Forward Bloc highlights how Bose's own family members could have done more to save the freedom fighter's legacy.

The political well being of the party that Netaji founded with like-minded people after splitting from the Congress over differences with Gandhiji in 1939, perhaps is a better way of keeping Netaji alive than making his death an issue of gaining votes in the upcoming Assembly Elections.

First published: 27 January 2016, 6:03 IST
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.