After the Parliamentary Elections this year, we profiled Chandra Kumar Bose, the BJP candidate who challenged the results of his South Calcutta constituency. We now follow up with him on the status of his complaint to the Election Commission and speak to him on other issues, including why he supports the Central Government’s decision to abrogate Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir.
Bose on Kashmir and Modi
Chandra Kumar Bose says that the country should speak in a unified voice on the issue of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. “These were temporary measures adopted in order to tide over transitional phases of disharmony until the return of unity and peace to the region. But seven decades later and the ‘Kashmir problem’ has only got worse. It has been in the grips of terrorism from across the border. Violence is a daily occurrence. You need corrective action. Endless discussions and debates have not proved fruitful. There could be differences of opinion about the manner of implementation. The government has imposed curfews and you could argue against the containing of freedom of elected representatives, even if the justification is to prevent eruptions of protest, disorder and violence. We all have our individual opinions on right and wrong but in the end when it comes to the question of protecting our international borders, which has been intermittently threatened, the nation should speak in one voice and stand by the government on its decision to take stringent action. ”
Bose adds that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a “Doer”. “Even if his decisions appear initially to be unpopular, if he feels that something is for the greater good of the country, he will act. Populist doles and short-term gains which win elections is not his priority. Demonetization and the introduction of GST (goods and services tax) are examples of this. These created so much controversy when he introduced them in the very first term but the BJP’s overwhelming victory in the general elections five years later proved that he did the right thing in the eyes of the people of the country.”
Bose and Bengal Politics
“It is still pending,” says Bose when asked about the status of his complaint to the Election Commission. It has been four months but he says he is not perturbed. “Let them take their time. In any case, the only interest I now have in the issue is to establish the truth.” He says he is much more focused on the future. “Elections will be held in less than two years and currently our party is concentrated on reaching out to the people of the state and gaining their confidence.”
After his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, did spectacularly well in West Bengal in the Parliamentary elections that were held in April and May of this year (shooting up from two seats in the last Parliamentary elections to eighteen this time) it is now gearing up for a political combat in an attempt to wrest the state from the ruling Trinamool party. In the 2016 Assembly elections, Bose’s name figured prominently in media lists of possible chief ministerial candidates in case of a BJP win. His lineage and appeal as the grandnephew of one of Bengal’s most iconic leaders, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was thought to be advantageous with Bengalis. Also, given Bengal’s historical penchant for electing “bhadralok” or “gentleman” candidates (read: urbane, educated, upper class, and male) as chief ministers, the last two elections notwithstanding, Bose seemed ideally suited. In fact, BJP fielded Bose directly against the incumbent chief minister Mamata Banerjee from the South Calcutta constituency.
Mamata Banerjee defeated Bose, signaling perhaps that she had managed to wipe the slate clean of such Bengali expectations. A popular leader who had emerged from the under-privileged strata of society, she belonged neither to the “bhadralok” class nor to its gender.
Yet, Bose’s contesting of the general elections from the same constituency is reflective of the BJP’s awareness that anti-incumbency sentiments against the state government might once again turn the tide in favor of a suave and genteel chief ministerial candidate. The party has therefore kept its options open in terms of choosing its state leadership.
The name to figure most prominently in this context is that of Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s Bengal president. His “rough and tough” approach – to use one of Mamata Banerjee’s pet phrases to describe the stance she will take on issues that should be dealt with strictly – could be just what the BJP decides to use to counter Banerjee herself. As far as Bose is concerned, “It is entirely the party’s decision.” He says that he fully supports the leadership of Ghosh. “He has proved in the Parliamentary elections that he can deliver,” Bose adds.
Bose As Moderate Voice and Advocate for Unity
Bose is considered the moderate voice of the Bengal leadership. “I think that the only way that our country will move forward is if all political parties decided on issues by keeping in mind the good of the nation rather than acting from mindsets of opposing each other just for the sake of it,” he says. “Differences are bound to arise on issues and in a democracy the healthy way to deal with it is to discuss and debate and come to a consensus. But what has been happening for years is that rival political parties have derailed each other’s plans simply because they are in the Opposition.”
In his opening remarks at a panel discussion on the subject, “The Way Forward,” organized by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, Bose said, “Only during elections should political parties go all out to prove their differences, but afterwards, they should all work together. That is the only way forward.”
Bose has himself supported the decisions of rival politicians on specific issues. When Chief Minister Banerjee declassified a set of secret files held by the state government on Netaji, Bose hailed it as an exemplary move.
Bose is currently at the forefront of a movement to de-link the name of Netaji from the theory that he had reemerged disguised as a recluse named Gumnami Baba. The immediate provocation is a new movie which explores the idea. “The attempt to portray this disreputable fugitive, Gumnami Baba, as Netaji is not just dishonoring one of Indian’s most admired leaders, but it is a distortion of history.” Members of the Bose family from around the world have signed a petition to try to draw attention to the theory as one which is fabricated and introduced by vested interests to mislead the people of India. “Netaji had a plan for governance, keeping in mind the realities of India,” Bose says. “People of different religions, races, castes and creed would not lose their diversity or identity but as a nation there would be unity. It is this inclusiveness that I think we need to strive towards. When I joined the BJP, I had discussions with Modiji about the need to implement Netaji’s ideals because he stood for everything that is the need of the hour now…prosperity, development, unity.”
In political circles, there have been suggestions that Bose was being considered for a Rajya Sabha position. Asked about it, Bose said that while he was open to the idea, it was the party’s decision.