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Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose  were two legendary personalities, gigantic in  their political moral and ethical stature. Both  of them were two worthy sons of Mother India.  In 1915, soon after his return from South Africa  Gandhiji became the unquestioned leader of  India’s freedom movement and Indian National  Congress. He transformed  ‘an unarmed, politicallysubjugated,  dumb and  illiterate mass of humanity  into a fearless, non-violent,  politically awakened,  resurgent militia. Verily out  of dust, he made Indians  into men’. Subhas Chandra  Bose, ‘the stormy petrel of  Indian Renaissance’  younger to Gandhi by 28  years who had resigned his  brilliant career in the much  coveted heaven-born Indian Civil Service with  the resolute aim and determination to devote  himself entirely to the fight for India’s freedom.

The saga of relationship between Subhas  and Gandhi starts with Subhas meeting Gandhi  on the very day (on 16th July, 1921) of his  landing at Bombay. Their first meeting set the  contours of the relationship over the coming  quarter of a century between these two foremost  leaders of India’s freedom struggle.  To Subhas Bose, Gandhi always  remained ‘India’s greatest man’. His  appreciation of the unique contribution of  Gandhi was unequivocal. He recognised and  admitted Gandhi as the undisputable, unrivalled  leader of the masses.  Subhas had all praise for  Gandhi’s unflinching  patriotism, firmness in  character, love for truth etc.  Infact, Bose bowed before  Gandhi’s ‘single hearted  devotion, his relentless  will, and his indefatigable  labour’. To Gandhi, Bose  was like a son whose ‘self  sacrifice and suffering,  drive, integrity and  commitment to the national cause and the  capacity to bind all Indians into one people  were unsurpassed.’

Both Gandhi and Bose were totally  honest men. They were internationalists and  humanists. They were secular in approach and  anti-racial in outlook. In whatever situations  they were and whatever they were doing, their  minds were always diverted towards the  liberation of their motherland. The whole life  of both the leaders was an epic struggle for  India’s independence. In fact, the life long  “Tapasya” of both, ended with the ultimate  sacrifice of their very lives.

Inspite of all these, there were glaring  differences between Gandhi and Subhas and  in political life both were posed against each  other. Young Netaji was a firebrand nationalist  who believed in the tradition of Tilak and  Aurobindo. Gandhiji, on the contrary, was a  reluctant nationalist who belonged to the  tradition of his mentor Gokhale and Tagore.  Bose’s strong revolutionary urge for the  emancipation of his motherland made him  critical of many of Gandhiji’s techniques.

In 1920, at the age of 23, Subhas joined  the Non-cooperation Movement which was  going on with all its fury in Bengal under the  leadership of Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das.  He took prominent part in the agitation against  the Prince of Wales’s visit. In protest against  the decision of Gandhi in calling off the Noncooperation  Movement as a sequence to the  Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, Bose felt  highly dejected. In 1927, Subhas was elected  as one of the General Secretaries of the Indian  National Congress. A British Parliamentary  Commission, known as Simon Commission  was appointed, to fix up the exact status of  India’s Constitutional development. Indian  leaders had long been thinking in terms of early  Dominion Status. For Subhas, the demand of  Dominion Status appeared to be too short of  his dream of full freedom. To the utter  astonishment of everybody he roared before  the Commission. ‘India shall be free, the only  question is when’? For this bold statement he  incurred the displeasure of the Mahatma who  rebuked Bose in the sharpest language such of which was never before heard in the public from Gandhiji

The year 1927 brought Subhas closer to  Jawaharlal Nehru at the annual session of the  Indian National Congress, which was held at  Madras. They formed the Independence of  Indian League and under their joint effort,  resolution for ‘Complete Independence’ was  passed. In the next year due to the opposition  of Gandhi the resolution to reiterate the demand  for Complete Independence could not be  approved. Thus Bose’s proposal was defeated.  In 1929 to separate Nehru from Subhas,  Gandhiji nominated Jawahar as the President  of Indian National Congress. The Mahatma was  happy as he thought that Bose would be  ineffective without support from Jawaharlal.  But Subhas a different stuff altogether, despite  opposition both from Nehru and Gandhi  declared 1929 to be the year of preparation  for a massive civil disobedience movement.

In the subsequent events that immediately  followed the same sort of ambivalence in the  relationship between these two leaders are  clearly discernible. Subhas praised Gandhiji  for Dandi March and Salt Satyagraha (1930).  He wrote nostalgically ‘The march of Dandi –  an event of historical importance which will  rank on the same level with Napoleon’s march  to Paris’. He particularly admired Gandhiji  success in involving women into the freedom  movement. At the same time Subhas severely  criticized Gandhiji’s participation in the Second  Round Table Conference in London. Bose was  much perturbed by the way Gandhiji played  his cards at the Round Table Conference.  Gandhiji should have spoken, he felt, at the  Round Table Conference, with a firm voice.

In 1937, Gandhiji felt that Bose was a  force to be reckoned with and hence he should  no longer be neglected. He was further  convinced that Subhas alone could be an  instrument in the split of the Congress. Hence  he decided to elect Subhas as the president of  the Indian National Congress even when  Subhas was not a member of that party. In the  51st session of the Congress held at Haripura  in 1938, Subhas was unanimously elected as  the President. Unfortunately both for the  Congress and the country, the alliance between  Bose and Gandhi remained precarious. Subhas  not only condemned Gandhi’s favourite  Charakha but gave a call to modernise India.  He called upon the people to get united for an  armed struggle against the Britishers.

At the presidential election in January  1939, Subhas was vigorously opposed both by  Gandhi and Nehru. Nevertheless, he has  achieved a decisive victory over his opponent  Dr. Pattabhi Sittaramayya, Gandhi’s nominee  by 1580 to1375 votes. Gandhiji openly  declared that Sitaramayya’s defeat was his  defeat. He said that Subhas’s references to his  colleagues were unjustified and unworthy. He  remarked that since Subhas had criticized his  colleagues as ‘rightists’, it would be most  appropriate on his part to choose a  homogeneous cabinet and enforce his action.  At the Tripuri Congress, Bose as the president  made a clear proposal that the Indian National  Congress should immediately send an  ultimatum to the British Government  demanding independence within six months. It  was opposed by the Gandhian wing and Nehru.  In the midst of the hostile situation Subhas  resigned the Presidentship of the Congress on  29th April, 1939, and immediately proceeded  to form a radical party bringing the entire left  wing under one banner. In this connection, it  would be most appropriate to mention that –  Bose’s innate devotion and respect for Gandhiji  remained as firm even though his path was  diverging. He clearly stated ‘it will always be  my aim and object to try and win his confidence  for the simple reason that it will be tragic for  me if I succeed in winning the confidence of  other people but fail to win the confidence of  India’s greatest man’.

Subhas had his ‘last long and hearty talk  with the Mahatma on 20th June, 1940.’ He had  pressed Gandhi to launch the struggle taking  advantage of the critical position of the British  in the Second World War. He told that it was  the most opportune time and it was impossible  to think of any other situation in which India  could start the struggle. Mahatma replied, ‘why  do you think that we cannot get better  opportunities later on ? I am sure we will have  many such opportunities. Whether England  wins or loses the war, she will be weakened  by it; she will have no strength to shoulder the  responsibilities of administering the country,  and with slight effort on our part she will have  no alternative but recognise India’s  independence’.

The whole nation was aroused when  Subhas Bose made his spectacular escape on  17th January, 1941 (it was the day fixed for  his trial for sedition) while under house  detention at Calcutta and finally reached  Germany in order to lead struggle for freedom  from outside. Gandhi, on his part, could never  endorse Subhas Bose joining with the Axis  powers. Even outside India, Bose remained unshaken in his deep allegiance to Gandhiji. His praise and devotion for Gandhi were again obvious in his broadcast on Gandhiji’s birthday on 2nd October, 1943. ‘The service which Mahatma Gandhi has rendered to India is so unique and unparalleled that his name will be written in letters of gold in our national history for all time’.

Even Gandhiji, while differing from the extreme methods of Subhas Bose, had utmost admiration for his unique effort for India’s freedom. On one occasion Gandhiji wrote to Subhas, ‘regarding our love for the country and determination to achieve freedom, you are second to none. Your sincerity is transparent. Your spirit of self- sacrifice and suffering can not be surpassed by anybody’. In another occasion in a conversation with an American journalist, on the eve of launching the Quit India Movement, Gandhiji defended Bose as ‘a patriot of patriots’. Netaji’s last broadcast on 6th July, 1944 addressed to Gandhiji through Azad Hind Radio, was like a brilliant report in which he described how ‘the high esteem in which you are held by patriotic Indians outside India and by foreign friends of India’s freedom, was increased a hundred fold when you bravely sponsored the Quit India Movement in August 1942′. Concluding his speech he fervently sought the blessings of Gandhi, Father of our Nation, in this holy war of India’s liberation we ask you for your blessings and good wishes.’

During 1945 and 1946, Gandhiji came  to know a lot about the exploits of Subhas and  his Indian National Army. While addressing  the INA prisoners he paid unreserved tributes  in hailing Bose as ‘Netaji’. He also paid  unqualified tribute to the INA. ‘The greatest  among its achievements was to gather together,  under one banner, men from all religions and  races of India, and to infuse in them the spirit  of solidarity and oneness, to the utter exclusion  of all communal and parochial sentiments. It  is an example which we should all emulate.’  It is thus clear from the above that both  Gandhiji and Subhas discussed all the  problems that confronted them, honestly  realised their differences. Their relationship  was based on truthfulness, transparency,  sacrifice and suffering. No wonder, they had  the deepest concern for each other till the end .


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