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Netaji files: How Mamata Banerjee checkmated Congress and BJP

Kolkata,Arghya Roy Chowdhury: Cynics believe politicians are all the same, but hallmark of good leaders are to respect and understand public sentiment and manipulate it to their advantage.

Mamata Banerjee

By declassifying Netaji files, Mamata Banerjee has precisely done that in nick of time with Assembly elections just few months to go in West Bengal. By now, from all accounts, forget controversial content, there is very little about Subhas Chandra Bose in the 64 files declassified by the West Bengal government.

The 12,744-page dossier, has definitely provided a glimpse of how the feted freedom fighter encountered with people and also gives details of interaction between Netaji’s family member and his wife Emilie Schenkl. But there is hardly anything about the death mystery of Netaji or anything with potential adverse ramification for India and its world partners.

Also Read: Declassification of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files end in a whimper

It is hard to believe that Mamata Banerjee did not know about this for a long time. Yet she chose to declassify these largely benign set of files for strategic reasons.

  1. Put the state and central unit of BJP under pressure:

Mamata Banerjee has put the money in the mouths by declassifying the files which were there with the state government. Shortly after the files were released, didi demanded the Modi government to release all the files with them. The NDA government has so far opted for a very cautious approach to this with Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu saying that they have to carefully look into possible ramifications before taking the final decision. But expect TMC MPs to ramp up the rhetoric in the Winter Session and Mamata Banerjee attacking BJP on it as dates of assembly election come nearby.

If Modi government decides not to publish the files, state BJP will be a siting duck facing TMC’s tirade.

  1. Winning back the confidence of Bengali ‘bhadrolok’:

While Mamata Banerjee, since her massive mandate in 2011, has only increased her grip over rural areas, there has been some resentment in the urban areas with the ruling party. Be it Saradha scam or the infamous Park street rape case, or cracking down on activist like Ambikesh Mahapatra or entire mishandling of the JU fiasco, Banerjee has come across as an authoritarian to the upper and middle class Bengali. While they still support her primarily due to lack of alternative, the chink in support base is evident. Mamata wants a long inning for her and declassifying Netaji files may just give her a much needed shot in the arm. It is not uncommon to hear theories about chokranto (conspiracy) against Netaji in addas in the bylanes of Kolkata, and didi’s gesture will warm the cockles of Bengalis.

  1. Further eroding Left unity and social base:

Party formed by Netaji, All India Forward Bloc is part of the Left Front in West Bengal. While the Left has reacted cautiously, Forward Bloc has whole heatedly supported the move. The smaller allies of Left Front, both Forward Bloc and RSP has had a difficult relationship with CPI(M) in the recent past. Mamata has publicly courted their support too. This latest move by West Bengal CM may only increase bonhomie between Forward Bloc and TMC.

4.Completely obliterate Congress in West Bengal:

Congress in West Bengal is in a terminal decline, now being only confined to limited pockets. This latest reveal shows tall former leaders of Congress in poor light, the likes of Bidhan Chandra Ray and Siddhartha Shankar Ray. Congress even in South Bengal still gets some votes from ‘old Congressi voters’ mainly driven by nostalgia. Expect an exodus of voters from Congress to TMC now that they snooped on Netaji has been revealed.

So all in all, Netaji files have given a perfect jumpstart to Mamata’s campaign ahead of assembly elections next year. Not that her winning was never in doubt. But by giving a sense of closure to Bengali sentiments who feel strongly for Netaji, she has landed a knock-out punch even before the fight has started.