Let’s now allow Netaji, wherever he is, to rest in peace. The venerable soul surely won’t be loving the fact he is being treated as a political football.
A fresh tranche of the Netaji files is out and there are no smoking guns yet. Several conspiracy theories, tell-tale ‘revelations’ and three enquiry commissions later we stand exactly where we were decades ago on the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose disappearance mystery. Those who have been secretly hoping that the files would directly indict Jawaharlal Nehru have been left disappointed so far.
Some of the files indeed reflect that the Congress dispensation led by him and later were equally unsure about the truth and had to go by circumstantial evidence. The letter, purportedly written by Nehru to Clement Atlee, that mentions Netaji as a ‘war criminal’ is likely to spice up politics in the run-up to West Bengal elections. But the fact remains that the files declassified by the West Bengal government is September last and the current lot that has been read this far, reveal nothing that would bring the matter to a conclusion.
Even after the entire lot of documents involving Netaji is placed in public domain there would still be scope for doubts and speculation. This part done, the question next would be about the missing papers in some files and documents lying abroad, most of which will be impossible to procure. His family members – there’s difference of positions here too - may be genuinely interested in knowing the truth about the leader, but for the rest the interest remains in prolonging the matter for motive other than getting to the truth. By the ‘rest’ we mean political players of all hues.
The political implications of the declassified letters are thus more interesting than the central issue. The visible loser in the whole declassification process is the Congress. It now loses the luxury of choosing an alliance partner in West Bengal, which goes to polls not too long away. The ‘war criminal’ letter and whatever remotely incriminating comes up later will make it difficult for it to bargain from a position of strength. A few days ago, it was mulling the option of going with Mamata’s Trinamul Congress or the Left. With the Netaji papers likely to be discussed heavily in the election, it will be a liability for its alliance partners.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who released 64 files earlier, will obviously seek to cash in on the fact that she was the first to declassify the Netaji files. Now she has upped the ante already demanding that Netaji be given the title of ‘Leader of the nation’in the manner in which Mahatma Gandhi was called the ‘Father of the nation’. Besides putting the Congress, which was beginning to look confident again after random electoral victories across the country, in a spot of bother, she has a stick to beat the other rivals on the block, the Left Front and the BJP.
The Left Front, the main rival of the Trinamul, again will be left with some answering to do in connection with the files. While it has been demanding of the centre that these be declassified, it never took the initiative to make public whatever documents the state had concerning Netaji. And it was in power for 34 long years. With Mamata already stealing a march on it and having claimed a moral high ground, it will be a tough task for it to catch up now.
Despite all the noise and fury the BJP is still not a major player in the state. While it would have loved to play the declassification card to impress voters in the state, the problem is Mamata has already pre-empted it. It would still go to town claiming it did what the Left and the Congress couldn’t in all these years, but the gains would be limited.
Thus if there’s a political gainer from the exercise in the state, it has to be Mamata and her party. But, of course, the equations change if there are new revelations showing the Congress in a better light.
So let us rest assured that the noise over the Netaji mystery will not die anytime soon. Truth is incidental to it, politics is the core.