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BJP pins hopes on Netaji ahead of West Bengal polls

PM Modi to travel to Kolkata to inaugurate Netaji birth anniversary event on Jan 23

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to a bust of Subhas Chandra Bose Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to a bust of Subhas Chandra Bose

Ahead of the West Bengal elections, the BJP is pinning hopes for victory on the broad shoulders of Subhash Chandra Bose. The ministry of culture issued a notification on Tuesday to make January 23—Netaji birthday—as Parakaram Diwas in the run-up to his 125th  birth anniversary celebrations. And to make the first event a blockbuster, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Kolkata to inaugurate it at the iconic Victoria Memorial.

The surviving members of the Indian National Army will also be felicitated at Victoria Memorial at a massive function on January 23. “It is a matter of pride that the prime minister will be present,’’ said Minister of Culture Prahlad Patel at a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday.

The stage is set for a confrontation. It is the tussle between “prem’ (love) and parakram (valour). The ministry’s notification claimed that January 23 will be celebrated as Parakaram Diwas to “to honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation.’’ The decision has been criticised by the Forward Bloc, the party Netaji formed in 1939, as well as the Trinamool Congress.

Both the parties—vying each other to be the best defender—have objected to the name. Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has been demanding that Netaji’s birthday be declared a national holiday and be celebrated as Desh Nayak Viwas—as Rabindranath Tagore called him a desh nayak; and the Forward Bloc has been lobbying for it to be called ‘Desh Prem’ day. 

Patel, however, chose to deflect questions on whether there were any political motivations by the BJP. “This is the year when Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s 250 anniversary,’’ Patel said. “Also, Satyajit Ray. All of them hail from Bengal.’’

Banerjee is planning her own pada yatra around Kolkata to commemorate the birth anniversary of Netaji. Asked whether she would be invited to the prime minister’s event, Patel said she had been sent an invitation. On the cards is a year-long celebration for Netaji. Each ministry has planned their own individual tribute. Air India has planned to paint a few planes with Netaji. An 18-feet statue will be placed at the National Library. A marathon will be held and a memorial will be built at Nilgunj, the place which witnessed a brutal massacre of the INA Prisoners of War 

From countering Jawaharlal Nehru to now becoming the ‘star’ in the new politically charged ground in Bengal to launch the election campaign, the BJP has found Netaji the latest historic icon that the party wants to stake claim to— especially as he still has resonance in Bengal. There will also be Usha Uthap and Papon to sing for Netaji at the event.

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