Subhas Chandra Bose: Eternal Rebel, Political Enigma
By: Sashwata Saha
Today will set off a year of “celebrations” both by the Central government and that of West Bengal marking the 125th birth anniversary of one Subhas Chandra Bose. The Prime Minister has decided to rechristen the day as “Parakram Divas”, the day of courage. The state government, not to be outdone, has declared the day as “Deshnayak Divas” or the day of the national hero.
The truth, however, is that today is actually his 124th birth anniversary, being born in 1897. But why then is the country celebrating it as the 125th?
Because the elections in West Bengal are due this year. So, it makes perfect sense for both the central and state governments to make the most of the situation and be seen as ‘closer’ to the man.
In this grand scheme of things, what’s in a date, anyway?
Bose is one of the most powerful brands that India has seen. The enigma about his ‘death’ magnifies his appeal. Also, the fact that he became a ‘rebel’ in the freedom struggle and charted his own path increases the adulation and magnetism. He has left us a legacy filled with intense patriotism, adventure, intrigue, controversy, and action. He has given us coinages like “Jai Hind”, “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Chalo Dilli” that are in use every day.
If one were to read Bose’s writings and speeches over the years, one would see his clear disrespect for certain political parties, the religious fundamentalists, and armchair thinkers. His open love for Urdu as well as the Bhagwad Gita is a delightful co-existence that many find difficult to fathom today. Giving his Azad Hind Fauj the motto of ‘Ittihad Itmad Qurbani’ while naming two of the battalions after Gandhi and Nehru is a paradox not witnessed in India’s history.
And that is exactly why no political party really wants to ‘own’ him. Forward Bloc, the party he had founded, is just too small to be of any consequence. The Congress has kept him at arm’s length for obvious reasons as he had a voice that did not match that of the supreme leader’s forcing him to leave the party even after winning the election as president. The Left Front, even after absorbing Forward Bloc, did not openly espouse his persona as he had controversially aligned with the Axis powers. The BJP did play the ‘Netaji Files’ card merely for political gains but that did not seem to work, so they let him be. The Trinamool Congress really does not know how exactly to appropriate Bose.
The world loves rebels, be they persons or products. As human beings, we have this deep-down urge to challenge convention and have no ‘holy cows’. Rebellion is a subliminal trait, mostly suppressed due to overt constraints and pressures. Therefore, the average person has a certain level of respect for anyone who challenges authority, establishment, ritual or convention.
Bose is the eternal rebel. The classic challenger brand.
However, he has not become a pop icon as Che as yet, even in India. I do not know whether that is good or bad. Some might object to putting Bose on a shirt and demeaning his image. Others might argue that having more Bose t-shirts being worn might lead to more people wanting to know about this man and his life. I choose to be with the latter as I strongly believe that the cause of the rebel needs to be amplified as much as possible, across age groups, regions and countries. That will actually protect the rebel from misappropriation.
Thankfully, the sudden euphoria around Bose that starts today will last till the Bengal elections are done with. Whoever wins will silently consign the man back to the annals of history and to the statues at crossings around the country.
Rebels are too hot to handle, be they persons or products.
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