The celebration plans for the 125th birth anniversary of India’s legendary freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has sparked another political slugfest between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling-Trinamool Congress in West Bengal ahead of the state assembly elections this year. Bose’s birth anniversary will be a year-long celebration beginning this January 23.
While the Centre has decided to celebrate Bose’s birthday as ‘Parakram Diwas’ (the day of valour), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Tuesday that the day will be observed as ‘Desh Nayak Diwas’ (the day of the national hero).
Following her Purulia tour on Tuesday, CM Banerjee said, “West Bengal will observe January 23 as 'Desh Nayak Diwas'”. Taking a subtle dig at the BJP, riding on the “outsider” jibe, she said, “I don't know the exact meaning of 'Parakram', maybe there are three to four meanings, so I can't discuss now.”
Soon after Union Minister announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan for ‘Parakram Diwas’ in Kolkata, the TMC berated the Centre’s move, dubbing it as a political “stunt” ahead of the West Bengal assembly polls due this year.
“Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been demanding for years that January 23 be declared as a national holiday and celebrated as ‘Desh Nayak Diwas’, which is the appropriate name because Rabindranath Tagore called Bose a ‘desh er nayak’ (hero of the nation). The Modi government takes all decisions unilaterally,” said Saugata Roy, a TMC Lok Sabha member and spokesperson of the party.
The BJP was quick to retort that the Centre’s decision to name the day ‘Parakram Diwas’ “because Netaji is a symbol of valour and patriotism for the entire nation”.
On January 23, PM Modi is scheduled to participate in the first ‘Parakrama Diwas’ event in Kolkata and inaugurate an exhibition on the grounds of the National Library to honour Bengal’s one of the most revered freedom fighters and cultural icons.
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, disenchanted with both the Centre and the TMC, the Forward Bloc, which Netaji founded in 1939, and a section of his family demand that January 23 be observed as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’ (day of patriotism).
Chandra Kumar Bose, a BJP leader and the grandnephew of Netaji, too, demanded that Bose’s birthday be observed as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’ across India. “Chandra Kumar Bose, a BJP leader and Bose’s grandnephew, agreed. “#Netaji’s birthday on 23January is celebrated as #DeshPremDivas across the country by people from all religions, caste & creed as he was the #LiberatorofIndia & their own leader... (SIC),” he tweeted.
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.
Taking exception of the Centre’s panel on Netaji’s birth anniversary, the Forward Bloc had said, “Nobody from the Forward Bloc has been included in the committee. We will not be a part of it even if we are invited now.”