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Is This Akhilesh's Netaji (Bose) Moment?

29/10/2016 12:37 PM IST | Updated 29/10/2016 4:33 PM IST
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The recent and on-going embattlement of UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has been compared by some to l'affaire Chandrababu Naidu-NTR of 1995. It is, arguably, a rather poor comparison. That was but a palace coup. This, some say, is open 'Dharm-Yuddha'. A closer parallel to the travails of Akhilesh can perhaps be drawn with the 1939 woes of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Yes, the Congress is a party and the Yadavs, a family, but the Congress of those days was very much a family too. These days it's the Gandhi family. Back then, it was Gandhi's family — an over-extended joint family, with Gandhi himself as its rightful but ageing patriarch susceptible to sycophancy and ego, capable of taking the wrong side at the cost of what's right. Years later the old man would say: 'Subhas was like my own son,' but in 1939 it was plain to see that he was not the good one.

Bose was only 42 when he bravely defied both old man and old guard, and was re-elected President of the INC at the Tripuri session. As Akhilesh stands ranged against old-school Samajwad and seeks re-election as the CM of Uttar Pradesh, he's merely 43. He's duelling to recast the SP in his own progressive mould, correctly believing this to be imperative for the future of his party and his state. Bose fought to revalorize his party in his own fighting spirit, correctly believing it to be imperative for the Congress and his country.

The gumption of youth was abundantly evident in Bose as he took on those much older and sizeable than him. In the battles thus far against his biggers and betters, Akhilesh too has given considerable evidence of young courage.

The gumption of youth was abundantly evident in Bose as he took on those much older and sizeable than him. In the battles thus far against his biggers and betters, Akhilesh too has given considerable evidence of young courage. The undermining of Bose was underway well before he even won. Gandhi's insecurity was instrumental to this purpose, as was rumour, innuendo, conspiracy, non-cooperation and public criticism of Bose. Akhilesh is beset by the same set of political artillery and artifice.

What is perhaps the most curious similarity of all is that like Akhilesh, Bose was also under alleged attack by Tantriks acting at the behest of his foes, during those heady days at Tripuri.

What is perhaps the most curious similarity of all is that like Akhilesh, Bose was also under alleged attack by Tantriks acting at the behest of his foes, during those heady days at Tripuri. His severe and 'strange' ill-health at the time is a matter of historical record. Bose himself wrote at length about it in the Modern Review of April, 1939, in an article titled 'My Strange Illness':

"A few days later I was visited by a Professor of the Calcutta University, an erudite scholar in Sanskrit Literature and a man of exemplary character, for whom our family has high regard and esteem. He had been commissioned to deliver a message to us. A number of Pundits and astrologers including himself had met the day before to discuss my illness. They had come to the conclusion that ordinary causes could not account for my strange and acute illness. They were of the view that somebody in some part of the country had been practicing what is known in the Tantra-Shastra as Marana-Kriya — that is, attempt to kill by Tantric process or will-power."

"A number of Pundits and astrologers had met the day before to discuss my illness. They had come to the conclusion somebody in some part of the country had been practicing what is known in the Tantra-Shastra as Marana-Kriya — that is, attempt to kill by Tantric process"Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, 'My Strange Illness'

Bose goes on to add:

"Everybody was intrigued and amused as well. Without disbelieving the possibility of exerting abnormal will-power in accordance with tantric mental exercises—was it possible in the year of grace, 1939, for such mental phenomena as Marana, Uchchatan (dislodging/evicting); Basheekaran (mind-control) etc to take place? Our visitor was definite that, though such phenomena were rare now, they did take place nevertheless. And he cited instances. He added that, though Marana-Kriya had taken place, owing to my strength, it would not have any fatal result, but would only damage my health. And he concluded by offering some advice as to how I should be careful in protecting my health. I confess that all this talk did not convince me in the least, but it nevertheless left an uncanny feeling within me. At the back of my mind there was the faint impression of a question mark."

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Later that year Bose resigned as Congress President, not due to any real compulsion but out of sheer innate decency. He tried fighting for his ideas from within the party for a while, to no avail, and so he soon broke away to walk his own righteous path. Akhilesh too has a reputation for decency and good-heartedness, even among his detractors. Whether he fights party and patriarch from within and/or without, the political questions before him are the same: How far will he take the fight? How hard will he fight for what's right? In an interesting, perhaps providential coincidence, members of the Bose family who were in Lucknow last month had a gift sent to the Chief Minister's residence. The gift was a book, on the life, works and wars of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose—the perfect book, perhaps, for Akhilesh Yadav to take a leaf out of?

Jai Hind.

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