KOLKATA:The enigmatic life and death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was a ticking political time bomb. It took over 68 years and 14 governments before West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee detonated it by declassifying 64 Netaji files, which had been lying in the State government archives since 1947. In the explosion, shrapnel has scattered in the direction of the BJP, which was hoping to dethrone her with its Hindutva-Modi mantra in next year’s Assembly polls. It has wounded the Congress, which has been trying to reincarnate itself in the state. It has damaged the Left, Banerjee’s deadliest foe and was sitting on the Netaji files during its rule of over three decades.
With a single masterstroke, the political artist in Banerjee has repainted the canvas of public discourse in the state, where politics is practiced with a fervour that matches the Bengali veneration for Maradona. The move has had the Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers in a state of euphoria. They feel this political trump card will help them project Didi as a renewed Bengali nationalist. Party strategists say she will be compared with Netaji, as a leader who had the guts to take on the mighty Modi mainframe.
The Left has little to offer than mere excuses. The fact is that former Left leaders like Jyoti Basu considered Netaji a “Fascist stooge.” The Congress has an uphill task at reincarnation. Nehru is not a figure of veneration in the state. Congress leaders will have a real hard time on election platforms explaining the Nehru government’s spying on Netaji’s family. Banerjee deftly put the BJP on the backfoot by challenging the Modi government to make all files pertaining to Netaji public.
The BJP banks on the legacy of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who never gained ground in Bengal after the partition, but is known as a saffron leader who respected Netaji. BJP leaders say the party will gain advantage if Modi releases the 130 files and exposes Nehru. Then the party will go for a carpet bombing campaign to win over fish-eating Bengali voters who otherwise consider it a “north Indian vegetarian party”.
In utmost secrecy, Banerjee had been meticulously planning to make the Netaji files public for the last three months. On July 9, she dropped in at the headquarters of the Forward Bloc, the party founded by Netaji and is now part of the Left Front. She described her call on the FB state general secretary Ashok Ghosh a courtesy visit. However, in their meeting, the plan to declassify the files was discussed.
Later, Mamata had directed Kolkata Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha to bring the original files from the state intelligence branch and special branch headquarters. Senior bureaucrats and trusted intelligence officials pored over the files and pointed out to her, which were the most explosive among them.
While declassifying the files, Banerjee had said, “Please read word by word and you will know that some people out of sheer fear wanted to be sure of Netaji’s death. They seemed to have been scared if by chance Netaji returned to the country after independence.” It is abundantly clear at whom she was pointing her fingers and since the Congress was in power during that period, she wants to wipe out the already decimated party in West Bengal.
However, Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya claimed the files will never have any effect on ballot boxes. CPI(M) politburo member Mohammad Salim insinuates that Mamata and Modi are co-conspirators against the Left and through her, the PM wants to test the Bengal waters. Asked why the CPI(M)-led Left Front which ruled West Bengal for 34 years did not make the files public, he replied: “We had no problem in revealing those files as it was not our government, which ordered surveillance on Netaji’s family members. But three commissions of inquiry were ordered and the hearing of witnesses was going on. As such, there were legal problems to declassify the files.”
Sources said on Monday at her private studio, Mamata will paint Netaji’s portrait and release its copies. The last stroke of her brush will be painting her comeback. She will soon be, to the dismay of her opponents, transformed from “Didi” to “Netriji”!