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By Amitava Mukherjee

Anita Bose Pfaff, the daughter of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, is happy that the granite statue of her father has replaced a colonial relic at Delhi’s India Gate, the statue of British King George V. But she is not happy about the inefficient management that went along the inauguration of it.

Murmurs of discontent are reported to have been felt not just by some members of Netaji’s extended family but by a large number of his countrymen also. What relevance did September 8, the day of the unveiling of the statue, have with Netaji’s memory? Anita thinks that either October 21, the day of the establishment of the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore in 1943 or January 23, Netaji’s birthday, should have been the appropriate date. None of Netaji’s relatives was present on the occasion.

Netaji’s Ideas

Let us have a glance at what the Prime Minister said on the occasion. “If after Independence, India had followed the path of Subhasbabu, what heights would the country be at today? But unfortunately, this great hero of ours was forgotten after Independence. His ideas, even the symbols associated with them, were ignored.”

But Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. So why is he singing paeans to Netaji after so long a time? True, his words carry some truth. But it is also necessary that his government should reflect the ideas that Netaji stood for. Does it really?

If Modi really wants to accord Netaji the actual respect and position that the great patriot deserves then he must start from the very fundamental – the college and university curricula where Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army find little place. Netaji’s death is still shrouded in mystery and there is reason to believe that the final word on his death is still to be uttered. Has the BJP government at the Centre done enough to remove this mystery?

The Congress always exhibits a certain coyness while acknowledging the memorable contributions that Subhas Chandra Bose made towards the independence of India. The reason is clear. Bose had a serious difference of opinion with the top leadership of the Congress comprising Gandhi, Nehru, Patel et al and had left the party to form his own Forward Bloc.

The Communists have, however, come a long way from their earlier standpoint of castigating Bose for his association with Germany and Japan. They now sing paeans not only on Bose’s birthday but on several other occasions. No other political party in India is prepared to lag behind in acknowledging the heroic role that Subhas Chandra Bose played behind the independence of the country.

Achilles’ Heel

Points and counterpoints are now being bandied around over the Central government’s decision of installing this statue. Some critics of the Modi government are pointing out that there is already a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose inside the Parliament compound. But this argument has an Achilles’ heel. Subhas Chandra Bose sought a military solution to India’s subjugation by the British and from that angle his statue at the India Gate canopy is more appropriate.

However, some members of the Bose family do not see eye to eye with the Central government on all points. On an earlier occasion, even after welcoming the decision of the government in this regard both Anita Bose Pfaff and Sugata Bose, Netaji’s grandnephew, had pointed out to limitations of Narendra Modi’s thought process. In their opinion, proper justice will be done to Netaji’s memory if his dreams of communal harmony, concept of equality, his economic ideals etc, are honoured.

Actual Relevance

Here comes the actual relevance of Subhas Chandra Bose in Indian polity and economy. Along with Jawaharlal Nehru, he was the formulator of the concept of national planning which resulted in the birth of the Planning Commission in independent India. The idea was to take fruits of developments to the farthest corners of the country through centralised planning. But the Modi government has abolished the Planning Commission.

Had Netaji been alive he would not have approved much of the Modi government’s other state policies. India is now reeling under a 7% rate of inflation. The unemployment rate has crept up to 8.28% (in August this year). At a time when hapless workers in India’s unorganised sector cannot earn more than Rs 20 a day (this was the estimate made by the late Arjun Sengupta-led committee a few years ago), there is every reason to believe that things have not changed much since. Modi’s India is now witnessing burgeoning numbers of superrich people. According to Fortune India, the pack is now led by Gautam Adani, whose net worth stands at $148 billion. In doing so, Adani has already crossed Mukesh Ambani.

This is not certainly the independent India Subhas Chandra Bose had visualised. If Narendra Modi turns a bit more introspective, he will realise that putting up a statue of the great patriot in New Delhi’s India Gate area is only the first step. A lot more remains to be done. Most important of them being the eradication of poverty and instilling in the minds of the minority community a sense of security. After all, Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army is the most resplendent example of Hindu-Muslim amity.

(The author is a senior journalist and commentator)

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Author: Howard Caldwell