Poll bugle sounds in WB; BJP, TMC's war cry is Netaji

Ahead of Bengal polls, BJP, TMC appropriate Netaji’s legacy

The one-upmanship between the two parties over claiming Netaji as their own icon reached a peak on his birthday January 23

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. Credit: PTI

Ahead of the Assembly elections in West Bengal, the BJP and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) are desperately trying to appropriate the legacy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to prove they are true(r) followers of his ideology.

The one-upmanship between the two parties over claiming Netaji as their own icon reached a peak on his birthday January 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led the charge respectively for the BJP and the TMC on the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji.

Read | People will reject any party that uses Netaji Subhas Bose for political gain, says grand-nephew, Chandra Kumar Bose

During his day-long visit to Kolkata on Saturday, the Prime Minister made a last minute addition to his schedule and visited Netaji Bhavan, Netaji’s residence. The visit seemed to be aimed at wooing the Bengali voters by paying homage to Netaji and appropriating his legacy.

Modi’s visit gains further importance as state BJP sources said that the initial list of guests arriving with Modi at Netaji Bhavan included several BJP leaders. They said that it was changed following request from Sugata Bose, Netaji’s grand-nephew, that no political leader should visit Netaji Bhavan on that day. Even Modi had to visit as the Prime Minister and not a BJP leader. The request was accepted and several senior BJP leaders waited outside Netaji Bhavan during Modi’s visit.

The two parties have been engaged in a war of words over whether Netaji’s birthday should be celebrated as Parakram Divas as announced by the Centre or as Desh Nayak Divas as declared by the state government. Mamata, taking a dig at the Centre over the name Parakram Divas, said that the Centre should have consulted those well versed in Bengali before deciding on the name.

Also read | Insult to Netaji and Bengal: Mamata on 'Jai Shree Ram' chants

Seeking to woo the Bengali voters Mamata invoked another luminary from Bengal — Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. She said that Tagore called Netaji ‘Desh Nayak’ and hence her government decided to celebrate Netaji’s birthday as Desh Nayak Divas.

The Prime Minister at an event in Kolkata sought to link Netaji’s legacy with the achievements of the BJp government by claiming that the “strong India” Netaji dreamt of was becoming a reality as now the country’s armed forces have advanced jets like the the Rafale and Tejas.

The incident at the event where the Chief Minister refused to address the gathering following slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ from a section of the audience may have put BJP in a spot as it has given her the opportunity to accuse BJP of insulting Netaji by resorting to politics at a programme held to celebrate his birth anniversary.

Also Read | Dignity cannot be taught: Derek O'Brien on 'Jai Shree Ram' slogan at Netaji event

Speaking to DH, State BJP Vice-President Jay Prakash Majumdar said the question of whether BJP was trying to appropriate Netaji’s legacy was a “trivial one.”

“The real controversy is why Mamata Banerjee is allergic to slogans of Jai Shree Ram. Some people say Jai Shree Ram, Ram Ram or Allahu Akbar. This is the unity in diversity in India. No public servant or representative should be allergic to any of them,” he said.

Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy said that “BJP’s efforts to appropriate Netaji’s has very little chance to succeed.”

Political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay said “Netaji is such a strong political icon for Bengal that several political parties have tried to appropriate him. BJP is now doing the same.”