New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday unfurled the tricolour at the Red Fort on the 75th anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's declaration of the formation of India's first independent government – the Azad Hind Government in 1943.
He also inaugurated a refurbished national police memorial in New Delhi and a newly-built museum for the khaki-donning forces.
In terms of political optics, this is being seen as an attempt by the BJP to stake claim to the legacy of Netaji after doing so for BR Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in a pre-poll year and just weeks before Assembly elections in five states.
Attacking the Congress for neglecting the contribution of Bose, Modi said that several good sons of the nation like him as well as Ambedkar and Patel were “forgotten in the favour of one family”, in an indirect reference to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Donning the famous Azad Hind Fauj cap, the Prime Minister also unveiled a plaque to mark the anniversary. The plaque will be placed at barrack number three at the Red Fort where members of the Azad Hind Fauj faced trial. A museum will be also set up in the barrack.
Modi lamented that post-Independence, India's policies were based on the British system as "things were seen through British glasses". "Policies, including those related to education had to suffer because of this," he said.
“Today I can definitively say that in the later decades of independent India, if the country had got the guidance of personalities like Subhash Babu, Sardar Patel, the conditions would vary greatly,” the PM said. He said that his government is changing that now.
Bose is considered as one of the heroes of the Indian freedom struggle, who still has a major following, especially in West Bengal where the BJP is trying to spread its organisational base.
Interacting with BJP workers via video-conference on Wednesday, Modi had announced his plans to attend the ceremony. "While the Congress neglected the likes of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the BJP believed in remembering everybody who contributed to nation-building," he told them.
Praising the Azad Hind government, Modi said that Bose’s administration was not just in name but he made plans. “It had its own bank, its own currency, its own stamp and its own intelligence system… I bow down the parents who gave the country a leader like Subhash Chandra Bose Ji,” he said.
The Prime Minister also announced that a national award in the name of Bose will be given every year to police personnel who do excellent work in rescue and relief operations during any kind of disaster.
"From this year onwards, we will give an award in the name of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to police personnel who do exemplary work while rescuing and providing relief to people during the time of any disaster," he said in his address.
Modi said the award will be announced on January 23, Netaji's birthday.
Dedicating the memorial to the nation in recognition of the supreme sacrifice made by police personnel since Independence, PM Modi accused the UPA government of its failure in constructing the memorial and said "had the earlier government wanted and tried by its heart, the memorial would have been built several years ago".
Modi questioned "why it took 70 years after Independence to get the memorial into reality, why it took so long time even after 60 years of the Hot Spring day incident which is celebrated as Police Commemoration Day?"
Apart from the 75th anniversary, October 21 is also observed as the Police Commemoration Day every year in memory of the policemen killed at Hot Springs in Ladakh by Chinese troops on this date in 1959.
"A thought to dedicate such a Police memorial to the country's police force came up 25-26 years ago. The memorial also got approval by the then government. Atalji's (former Prime Minister) government took the first step in turning the thought on ground level and the then Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani laid the foundation stone of the museum in 2002," Modi said.
"I know that the construction work got affected because of some legal problems but had the earlier government wanted or tried it by heart, the memorial would have been completed several years ago."
Accusing the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Modi said "earlier government allowed settling dust on the stone established by Advaniji".
"When NDA government came to power in 2014, we passed the budget for it and the museum is today being dedicated to the nation," Modi said on the occasion.
The memorial, erected on 6.12 acres of land in Chanakyapuri at the northern end of Shanti Path, is built in the memory of 34,844 police personnel who have laid their lives in the line of duty since 1947, with 424 losing their lives this year.
The Prime Minister also dedicated a Police Museum to the nation on the occasion. The museum contains artefacts and points of time that shaped the history of the Indian police.