IN THE NAME OF NETAJI
From the pleasant winter of Kolkata in 2020 to the unbearable scorching summer of 2021 will decide who will rule Bengal next year – 'Didi' or 'Dada' (as Modi is often referred to in order to counter Mamata Banerjee's Didi phenomenon).
While from the Panchayat election in 2018, when the Bharatiya Janata Party conquered Purulia district, its graph has been on the ascendant, but the next one year will be crucial.
Whoever champions the "Bengali card", will have an edge.
Needless to say, icons like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are critical to that kind of regional politics. That explains the importance of his grand-nephew and BJP's Bengal Vice President Chandra Kumar Bose, who is a misfit in state's politics of violence but sought after in its politics of Bengaliness.
With his positions against the party stand and being snubbed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi over Netaji's birth anniversary, is the marriage between Chandra Kumar Bose and BJP over?
In a letter to the Prime Minister dated January 16 this year, Bose demanded that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's birth anniversary be declared as "Patriots Day" or "Deshaprem Divas". He had argued in that letter, "I am sure that the NDA government under your leadership would accept the people's demand of giving the rightful honour to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the patriot of patriots, who fought the final battle for India's freedom, by declaring his birth anniversary, the 23rd of January as 'Patriots Day/ Deshaprem Divas'."
But that clearly didn't happen.
While it can be argued that the Modi government has gone out of its way to declassify Netaji Files, hoping to unravel the circumstances of his death that were shrouded in mystery or naming Andaman Islands after the freedom fighter, inaugurating a museum on Netaji and his Azad Hind Fauj or unfurling tricolour at the Red Fort on October 21, 2018 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Azad Hind government, but it only helped the BJP as a party to appropriate Netaji's legacy which was so far ignored nationally.
Chandra Kumar Bose even joined the BJP and fought against Mamata Banerjee, of course unsuccessfully.
But lately there appears to be friction between the BJP and Bose which can often go to borderline rebellion, given how sincerely the party stand is followed by all in the current dispensation. Bose argued for inclusion of Muslims in the CAA, something Home Minister Amit Shah has openly and many times objected to.
Speaking on why he wanted January 23 to be declared a 'Patriots Day', Bose subtly brought in ongoing protests over CAA.
"Netaji is the only leader whose ideology can unite the nation. Today the nation is falling apart. I am not going into details. But there is no unity among communities in India. So unless you put Netaji in front, the nation will disintegrate and there will be partition again. This is a very clear message I would like to give to the Prime Minister," he said,
A West Bengal BJP leader said requesting anonymity, "Bose doesn't bring anything to the table apart from his surname. He can't make us win one single councillor's seat. I have been observing his statements of late and it gives a signal. Personally, I think his being around doesn't make much of a difference."
But he added, the state unit is asked to be seen as one unit by the central leadership which is why no one has retorted to him.
He is both right and wrong.
West Bengal BJP favours people who can win. This is precisely the reason, in spite of his innumerable controversial statements, Dilip Ghosh was backed by the central leadership, while he ran for President again. Turncoats like Arjun Singh are given immense importance because they "rule" an entire area. Contrastingly, Bose doesn't have any mass base, and also prefers to speak in English.
But, one thing Bose has that few others do – an iconic Bengali legacy. This is the reason the Trinamool Congress has never crossed the line while attacking Bose. And in the next one year, this "Bengali Pride" will decide a lot, in terms of election results in 2021.
Before anyone who is not familiar with Bengal politics brushes this aspect aside, here's an example. In the 2019 general election, the BJP was performing phenomenally. Then came an Amit Shah road show in Kolkata ahead of the last phase that saw violence and a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, one of the prominent faces of Bengali Renaissance, being demolished. Mamata Banerjee drove straight to the sight, picked up the pieces as TV channels beamed live footage. She had alleged it was an attack on Bengal.
In the last phase, the BJP scored zero while the Trinamool bagged all nine seats. To put things into perspective, just the phase before BJP got five out of eight seats. It was widely believed, the "hurt Bengali sentiment" punished the BJP.
Since then, the BJP has learnt its lessons. Local leadership has been asked to tweet in Bengali and not in Hindi to impress the central leadership, and Amit Shah started learning Bengali (whose progression is unknown), and the local leadership are encouraged to be seen eating fish. All to be seen as respectful to Bengal and Bengalis.
However, coming back to the core question – is Chandra Bose quitting BJP? No one knows. But if he does and whenever he does, the BJP's 'Mission Bengal' will take a severe beating.