Rumours are rife that the Central government is all set to confer the title of the Bharat Ratna to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The name of Netaji and several other distinguished Indians have been doing the rounds for the highest civilian award. Though the government has not yet officially committed to any name, Subhas Bose's family has raised their voice against any such decision.
According to Netaji's grand nephews Sugato Bose and Chandra Kumar Bose, Netaji can't be bracketed with people like Kanshiram and apparently anyone with a sense of history would agree that he can't be given the award after Rajiv Gandhi. Their comments seem to suggest that the government is doing a gross error by dragging Subhas Bose's name in contemporary politics. But anybody who has followed the family knows better. The family has consistently milked Bose's name to fulfill their political goals. In that sense, it is another blatant form of dynastic politics where the sentiment of emotional Bengalis has been chanellised for the ballot box. The travesty is that the likes of Sugato Bose and his mother Krishna Bose have never bothered to answer why they didn't join the Forward Bloc, a party set up by Netaji himself, which is currently facing an existential crisis. Instead, they went with the bandwagon and joined the Trinamool Congress that possesses gems like Tapas Pal. Do they ask for the views of all the 60 members of Netaji's extended family before taking any decision? Why should the government then be compelled to listen to their futile objections?
Had they been really serious about continuing Netaji's legacy, they would have tried to rejuvenate the Forward Bloc. The last we checked, TMC doesn't really follow Netaji's ideals in their political agenda. Thus Netaji's name is merely a convenient calling card for them, with scant respect for his actual legacy. Recently, the Bengal government branded Khudiram Bose and other freedom fighters as terrorists. But we never heard Sugato Basu say anything about that. Pragmatism over ideals, anyone? During the elections, Sugato Bose hobnobbed with alleged anti-socials for winning elections. So lectures on morality don't really suit him.
The Bharat Ratna controversy is another convenient excuse for the family to bask in Netaji's halo. Their objections clearly expose this. Firstly, the date of awards don't diminish the aura of the person. To give an example, Dadasaheb Phalke award winner Soumitra Chatterjee won his first national award as late as in 2007, whereas actor Saif Ali Khan, who is several decades younger, won it in 2005. But this does not imply that Saif is a better actor than Soumitra Chatterjee. Similarly, if Netaji is conferred the Bharat Ratna now, it will not imply that he is a lesser patriot than others. Also, Rajiv Gandhi was a democratically elected Prime Minister of India. So, it is plainly improper to pinpoint him out of 43 odd people who have been conferred the award. Why shouldn't Kanshiram be awarded the Bharat Ratna, a person who played a titular role in uplifting the condition of the Dalit community of India.
The family apparently believes that people like Gandhiji and Netaji are above all awards. But going by this argument, they should also be above petty family interference. While Gandhiji's family has mostly kept away from the limelight, Netaji's family has not spared a single opportunity to milk his name. National heroes need to be honoured and their views promoted among the new generation. If giving the Bharat Ratna is a way to ensure this, nobody should have a problem. National icons cannot be confined to barriers set by their families. Patriotism is neither a competitive race nor a fiefdom of a few parivars.
Chandra Kumar Bose sounds mildly delusional when he says "is there any evidence that he is dead?". He goes on to urge the government to declassify files regarding the disappearance on Netaji. But that is a completely separate issue altogether and it would be improper to mix the two. Even assuming that Netaji didn't die in a plane crash, it is improbable that he is currently living at the age of 117! Thus there can't be any sane objection against granting the Bharat Ratna award posthumously to a brave son of the soil.
It should be noted that the government decided to confer the Bharat Ratna posthumously on the freedom fighter way back in 1992, but there was a huge hue and cry from his family and the Forward Bloc then as well. Bose was eventually not featured on the final list after a public interest litigation was filed by a lawyer named Bijan Ghosh in the Calcutta High Court.
The family needs to do some serious introspection about what legacy of Netaji they are promoting to the new generation. Cribbing about genuine awards and compliments is unbecoming of the rich heritage of their family name.