Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join freedom fighters and veterans to unfurl the tricolour from the Red Fort on October 21 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind (independent India) declaration in what analysts describe as a smart political move to appropriate the legacy of one of the leading lights of India’s freedom movement, and of another Congressman.
On October 21, 1943, Netaji, as Bose is popularly known, announced the formation of the country’s first independent government . Although it was short-lived, some historians consider it an important milestone in India’s journeys to independence.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has already staked claim to the legacy of Sardar Patel, a lifelong Congressman and independent India’s first home minister.
A 182-metre-high statue of Patel, the Statue of Unity, is to be unveiled by the Prime Minister downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat on October 31.
The BJP has also sought to align itself with Dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s ideology. In April, Modi inaugurated the Ambedkar National Memorial in Delhi; last month, he invoked Ambedkar at the launch of his government’s flagship Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme. The BJP has also consistently targeted the Congress for belittling the legacy of both leaders.
Bose, whose career in the Congress ended bitterly (he was ousted from the party’s leadership in 1939), went on to form his Azad Hind military force. He is coming in for some special attention from the BJP. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government unveiled some of the classified files dealing with Bose after coming to power in 2014.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister will also unveil a plaque and launch work on a museum in a special barrack of the Red Fort where Indian National Army soldiers faced trials by British authorities. Netaji’s great grand nephew Chandra Bose, who fought as a BJP candidate against Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee in the last assembly elections, will also be present .
The celebrations around Bose are certain to involve some Congress-bashing, say analysts; earlier this week, while interacting with party workers, Prime Minister Modi took potshots at the Congress for its treatment of national stalwarts.
“History is witness to the fact that they (Congress) had only disrespect for Sardar Patel in their minds. The same happened with Netaji, Acharya (JB) Kripalani and BR Ambedkar. This list is so long, that I will need the entire night to complete,” Modi said during his interaction with party workers via video-conferencing earlier this week.
“I am honoured to participate in the programme. I know some people will criticize it. Let them do it. Everyone is aware how Netaji gave a challenge to British rulers when he formed his Azad Hind force. One party had ruled Indian for more than 70 years, but it didn’t bother to make the files public,” the PM added.