Centre vs Mamata: A Tough BJP-TMC Face Off over Netaji's 125th Birth Anniversary Ahead of Bengal Polls

Payal Mehta
·3-min read

The Trinamool Congress and the BJP have once again locked horns ahead of the upcoming Bengal assembly elections. This time the face-off is over the celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have set up different committees to chalk out the plan for Netaji’s birthday. PM Modi’s committee will be headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and will include Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and a host of other prominent people from the family of historians, authors and people from Netaji’s Azad Hind Army.

On the other hand, Banerjee has plans to hold a big parade on the day on the lines of Independence Day. The Centre will conduct a light and sound show and if sources are to be believed then PM Modi is likely to attend the programme at the iconic Victoria Memorial and deliver an address.

The Centre will hold three mega programmes, including one at Netaji’s birthplace Cuttack, as well as, Morang in Manipur where the INA's first office existed.

CM Banerjee has already announced setting up of a national university funded entirely by the state government, which will have tie-ups with foreign universities in the late freedom fighters name and also build a monument in Rajarhat. She has also announced that a number of Netaji's writings would be translated in various languages and that the state’s planning commission would be named after Bengal’s one of the tallest freedom fighters.

Meanwhile, the BJP-rule Union government will set up a museum in Netaji's memory in Bengal. A digital museum is and a further enhancement of the museum set up at Delhi Red Fort are also in the offing.

While the Bengal government has announced January 23 as 'Desh Nayak Divas', Banerjee has yet again urged the Centre to declare the day as a national holiday.

However, this is not the first time that the centre has took on Bengal government over Netaji's legacy. On October 14, 2015, PM Modi met Bose' family at his residence in Delhi and announced that his government would declassify Netaji's files. Right from the PMO to HMO to MEA the first lot of 100 files related to Netaji were put out digitally in the public domain on January 23 in 2016.

The National Archives of India subsequently released digital copies of 75 declassified files relating to Netaji in the public domain in two batches on March 29 and April 27 in 2016. The fourth batch of 25 files consists of 5 files of the PMO, 4 files of MHA and 16 files of MEA pertaining to the years 1968-2008 was launched on May 27, 2016.

CM Banerjee, too, declassified sixty-four secret files relating to Netaji on September 18 in 2015 at the Kolkata Police museum, asking the Centre to also do the same.

Back in 2018, on October 21, during the celebrations of 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the Azad Hind government by Bose, PM Modi hit out hard at opposition parties obsessed with one family or the other. His speech on ignoring the contributions made by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Netaji by the previous governments was met with heavy criticism from opposition parties like Congress, Left and TMC.

On 23 January in 2019, PM Modi inaugurated the Subhas Chandra Bose museum at the Red Fort in Delhi.