Months ahead of the election, Bengal's biggest and most popular man has come into the grand political stage of his state. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is turning 125 years old in January next year and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting for a national holiday on that day.
In 1996, then prime minister Narshimha Rao had declared the 100 birth centenary of Bose as a holiday without any demand from any corner. That time too Bengal was going to an assembly poll.
Banerjee wrote today, "He (Bose) is an inspiration across all generations. Under his untiring leadership, thousands of valiant soldiers of the Indian National Army made supreme sacrifice for the motherland."
"In order to truly pay respect to our great leader and national hero, we would reiterate the request that 23rd January be declared as a national holiday.... it would be very appropriate recognition to this national leader," she further added.
Banerjee told Modi in her letter that she had requested many a time to declare January 23 as national holiday. "However, this has not been materialized so far," said she.
Banerjee also brought up Bose's disappearance into the political discourse again. She said her government had declassified many files of the state government relating to Bose. Banerjee asked Modi to take personal initiative to put the issue of Bose's disappearance to rest.
"We would also request the central government to take decisive steps to find out what happened to Netaji and place the matter in public domain so that people get to know what finally happened to the great leader," Banerjee said.
Banerjee said such action from Modi would give people of this country and abroad a "much needed opportunity" to know what happened to the great leader.
The chief minister did not mention that Prime Minister Modi had also declassified a big number of files relating to Bose though none of those files gave details about the last days of the freedom fighter. Now the chief minister requesting the prime minister to take personal initiative to put the matter to rest speaks volumes.
Many are drawing the conclusion that Banerjee is talking about some more documents or cabinet files of those era or else she is referring to some decisions of the government after independence.
Said a TMC leader, "Our government declassified cabinet files and intelligent documents both. Centre could do more."
Netaji's family welcomed the chief minister's initiative to write to the prime minister requesting him to declare the Netaji birthday as holiday.
"Her demand is genuine. People of India and the Bose's family fully support the demand," said Chandra Bose, a BJP member and Bose's grandnephew.
Chandra Bose said the family had earlier requested the prime minister to take initiative to request the Japanese Prime Minister and Russian President to declassify their files related to Bose.
The BJP has not issued an official statement on Banerjee's letter as party state president Dilip Ghosh is in Delhi.
A BJP vice president said, "The demand is justified. But Modi government was the first government in India which took initiative to unravel the mystery surrounding Bose's disappearance. The chief minister should know that. It's disturbing that she has not mentioned that in her letter though she has mentioned her own initiatives."