India Top Stories

Alas, I were Mamata in Victoria Memorial!

Notwithstanding what Mamata supporters and media might say, Mamata Banerjee had missed a historic opportunity to set her past wrongs right and reorient her political direction in Victoria Memorial on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of  Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

 Vivekanand Jha, Ranchi. Before I begin unfolding my views, i would like to hold the candle to The Telegraph newspaper for staunchly backing Mamata, and thereby, by collorary, the existential vibrancy of Indian democracy. Significantly, 23rd of January, always a celebratory as well as a disappointing day for the nation, for despite passage of several decades, Netajee Subhas Chandra Bose’s mysterious disappearance remains an enigma for the nation till today. Whereas, Prime Ministers, in succession, had been mouthing eulogies and heaping an avalanche of praise on Netajee Subhas Chandra Bose, on the ceremonial day of 23rd of January, singing panegyrics in his name; they, albeit in no time, consign the greatest freedom fighter of the nation to history as soon as 24th January dawns.
In an apt portrayal of India’s most neglected leader, over time, so appropriately depicted by Shyam Banegal, in celluloid: Netajee, a forgotten hero, is being confined to a hero whose legacy is an object of  summary invocation, on his birth anniversary to remind the nation, that there existed a hero, crusader for India’s independence.
Incidentally, paying a glowing tribute to Netajee Subhas Chandra Bose in the year 1997, the then opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had famously said, ‘ Netaji Ko wo samman nahi mila jo unko milna chahiyay tha, magar wo Ashwasthama jaisay chir smarniya rahengay(Netaji never got his due from the nation which he all along deserved; however, he will remain immortal in our memory as Aswasthama)Also, no Prime Minister ever bit the bullet to de-classify the files pertaining to his disappearance. By way of an exception to the entrenched mindset of the establishment, Narendra Modi, purportedly proving himself to be different, had publicly declared that he would de-classify the files and consequently let the skeletons tumble out of the cupboard-it was widely speculated that Jawaharlal Nehru was the formidable conspirator behind hatching conspiracies of Netajee’s mysterious disappearance.
Inexplicably, Narendra Modi too, after exhibiting initial enthusiasm, when some of the files were remarkably de-classified, the matter as always, took the back seat-the enthusiasm melted in no time. Interestingly, the underlying rationale for not de-classifying  the files, as being touted about is this: If the files are being de-classified, it would result in the detrioration in the relations with some of the foreign countries, especially Japan and Russia, with which Netaji’s mysterious disappearance is said to be inextricably linked. Moreover, 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose assumed an inordinate significance: coming as it did, against the backdrop of an upcoming West Bengal Assembly Election in the month of April-May, 2021, when BJP is going gung ho in its endeavours to displace Mamata, and when one upmanship is going on between BJP and Trinamool to claim the mantle of Bengali greats, Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary dangled a momentous opportunity for the same. No wonder Narendra Modi, ever in election mode, master in the art of countenancing the suitable expressions in his face to bewitch his supporters, depending upon the political expediency of the situation, set out to capitalize on this opportunity. While cultivating a look of Gurudev Tagore, by significantly imitating his hair style, the heart throbe of Bengalese, of every age and era, Modi was already destined to win the hearts of Bengali Bhadralok and Bhadramahila.
Thus, embarking on a day trip to Kolkata, in a hastily organised trip to Netaji’s residence, known as Netaji’s Research Centre, Narendra Modi paid a glowing tribute to the immortal leader. Here too another contradiction was adequately palpable: Whereas the BJP leaders like Chandra Bose, Dr Swapan Dasgupta, were not allowed to go inside, as they waited outside to welcome Modi; inside, Sugata Bose, the grandson of Netaji, the Trinamool MP, was accompanying Modi for enlightening him about the historical significance of various photographs exhibited in the gallery and different rooms. Sugata Roy, being a politician too, as other politicians who were stopped outside, would not he have delegated the responsibility to someone else for accompanying Modi, especially when his cousin Chandra Bose too was restrained from entering inside? The very breach of the underlying rule, which was obvious to one and all, yet none raised the question on this glaring anomaly which vindicated the contradiction.
The next venue at Victoria Memorial where a function was organised by the Cultural Ministry, to commemorate Netaji’s birthday, invited Mamata Banerjee too. Significantly, in breach of India’s glorious tradition, Mamata Banerjee was an object of derision right from the time the function kick-started. Incidentally, Mamata,  was taunted with the clarion call of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. It was a clever ploy to provoke Mamata into some sort of weird reaction, especially keeping in view the fact that how she had so overwhelmingly overreacted to the slogan of Jai Shri Ram in the past. Unfortunately, Mamata, irreconcilbly fell into the booby trap that BJP had meticulously laid for her: whereas she should have conveniently turned the whole program in her favour by raising so many uncomfortable questions that could have ostensibly embarrassed BJP and the prime minister, ironically, she failed to do so. Unfortunately,  Mamata had virtually staged a protest against it by refusing to move beyond, ‘ Jai Bangla, Jai Hind’. Whereas Mamata virtually walked out without delivering her speech, Narendra Modi too, while showcasing his own government’s mega programs like ‘ Agmanirbhar Bharat’, drastically failed to live up to the expectations of the national leader, far less a Prime Minister of India-He could have asked the audience to maintain dignity as,Mamata was an invited guest. Alas, Mamata Banerjee, when the providence had provided her an opportunity to showcase her  secular ethos to the nation as the whole country was watching her, and where she could well have won certain remarkable brownie points, she too miserably failed.  No wonder If I were Mamata Banerjee, invited for the function, what would have been my approach, i would like to illustrate here. As regards slogan of Jai Shri Ram, I would have welcomed it by repeating it myself, yet politely reminding the audience that it should be ‘ Jai  Subhas’, for it was a special day for Subhas Chandra Bose. In this way, Mamata could have kept the delicate balance between both -Maryada Purushottam on the one hand, and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, on the other. Through such endeavor, Mamata could have rephrased her stance that she was never averse to Jai Shri Ram, which is a salutations to Maryada Purushottam, and not to BJP, for Ram is universal. Even Muslims call him Imam- e- Hind. If I were Mamata, I would have questioned that what this fuss of’ ‘Parakram Divas’ is all about when the people of India still do not that what finally happened to their Parakrami leader? I would have surely questioned Modi’s commitment to de-classify the files, as all his predecessors miserably failed.
I would surely have questioned Modi, which i did in my webinar, the link of which is given below, that how today’s India is so further from the vision of Netaji’s India, with the religious divide an all time high, today’s India can be anything but that of Netaji’s vision. I would have reminded the nation, especially Bengalese, that the secular tradition that Bengal has all along cherished, is compatible with that of Netaji’s vision, which runs the serious risk of being jeopardised if the communal forces gained the ascendancy in the state. Alas, Mamata could have said all that, Prime Minister, along with his ministerial colleagues, would have been left red faced. Hence, notwithstanding what Trinamool’s supporters may chorus, hailing Mamata for her dignified silence, not to go ahead with her speech, at the face of provocation, Mamata Banerjee had missed a historic opportunity yesterday in the Victoria Memorial, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 125th birth anniversary of India’s greatest freedom fighter, when she had all the chances of communicating before the nation of Netaji’s secular ideology and vision.   
Vivekanand Jha, author of Delhi Beckons: RaGa for NaMo, 56 Inches and The Making of Narendra Modi, Unmaking of Jawaharlal. 

Leave a Reply