He looks so much like his granduncle, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, that when Chandra Kumar Bose was campaigning in his constituency, South Kolkata, as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), during the recently-concluded Parliamentary elections, Bengalis came out of their homes to gawk. Clad in crisp, white cotton dhotis and kurtas to beat the summer heat, Bose was greeted with cheering crowds who searched for glimpses of their long lost hero in the politician, the descendant.
The resemblances are uncanny. Even if one dismissed the external – the rounded and rimmed schoolboy glasses or the boat-shaped military cap that Bose has inherited from his illustrious ancestor (which he gifted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 23 this year on Netaji’s birthday and which is now kept at the Museum in Red Fort, Delhi) – as incidental, there was no mistaking the genetic. Both are baby-faced and both are five-feet-ten inches tall. So much so that when a biopic was being planned on Subhas, the first person that was approached by the film’s director to portray the patriotic leader was his grandnephew.
“I declined saying that I was not an actor. But they requested me to pose for photographs in different angles anyway and created a portfolio of me for God knows what purpose. I wished them luck in their venture and that was the last I heard of them.” Chandra Bose chuckles, his dry, wry, tongue-in-cheek humor overtaking him.
We are sitting in the study of his Calcutta home in Golpark days after the general elections. Results have just been declared. His party has done spectacularly well in Bengal. Out of the 42 Parliamentary seats from the state, in the elections of 2014, BJP had won only two. The number has shot up to 18 these elections. The percentage of votes gained by BJP too has risen steadily jumping from 6 percent in 2009 to nearly 17 percent in 2014 to hovering in the region of 40 to 44 percent this year. Bose is not surprised. “We did not expect anything less,” he says.
In fact, if anything, he was confident of the South Calcutta constituency too going to BJP. “People of this constituency are conservative Bengalis who voted for development and a stable government at the Center which is represented by a strong Prime Minister who is Narendra Modiji,” Bose says. “People of this constituency were clear that they did not want a coalition government, strung together by political parties with dissimilar ideologies, which would collapse, as experience proves, with the slightest of provocations or disagreements.”
When Bose was defeated, albeit by a narrow margin, by Mala Roy, the Trinamool candidate, he insisted on a thorough scrutiny. “I was astonished to find that there were huge discrepancies between the percentage of votes registered by the Election Commission and the percentage of votes accounted for at the time of counting,” he says. “While the EC initially recorded 69.65 percent voting, when counting took place, the percentage had crossed 85 percent.”
Bose has registered a complaint with the Election Commission, which has reportedly agreed to look into the matter. “I have no problem with defeats,” Bose says. “If I am to lose, after a free and fair election, I will accept it as a verdict of the people but we must ensure that the polling process is not tampered with. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of democracy.”
Whatever the outcome of the EC scrutiny, Bose says he is not terribly troubled about it.
“This is not the first time in the history of elections in India that there have been complaints of discrepancy. I will take it in my stride. It is better to look ahead and plan for the future.”
In Bengal, as far as the BJP is concerned, the next step is to try to wrest the state from the Trinamool in the 2021 Assembly elections. “We see the BJP victory in Bengal these Parliamentary elections as a precursor to the state elections,” Bose says.
While Trinamool leaders have dismissed such claims as farfetched – chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said that she would try to prevent a single seat from going to the BJP and is understood to have roped in political strategist Prashant Kishore, known to have the “midas” touch, to plan her election campaign – BJP is gearing up for a “takeover” as party insiders call it.
Relaxing in his reclining chair, flanked on either side by framed photographs of Netaji and Swami Vivekananda kept on a mantle behind him, Bose, however says it’s not so much about taking over that interests him. “Grabbing power should not be the main goal,” he says. “Governance should be. Providing good governance to the people of India, which is what Netaji envisioned, ought to be the driving power for political parties irrespective of which one it is.”
Evening descends. Bose insists on making tea himself. He has imbibed values about self-reliance from generations of his great ancestors. “I try to live up to the ideals of my grandfather (Sarat Chandra Bose) and my granduncle (Netaji), not just because they were my relatives but they were visionaries.”
As he gets up and walks out, in the dim light of the now empty drawing room, one is transported back to a distant past…when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose would have thundered, “Stride on…until India is free.”
India is free. Bengal is free. So what freedom does his grand relative chase after today?
Free and fair elections?