How Congress party shunted out Subhash Chandra Bose

Today, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted how he remembered Subhash Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. But the country needs to be reminded as to how the Congress party shunted out Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose unceremoniously in 1939. 

Congress Session at Tripuri 1939 – Subhash Chandra Bose is re-elected President

Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru were staunch leftists within the Congress party of the day. They advocated complete freedom from British unlike those who hoped for constitutional concessions from British. The declaration of Purna Swaraj was taken under president-ship of Nehru in Lahore session of Congress (1929).

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Bose had been elected as the president in Haripura session of Congress in 1938. Bose had been advocating opposition to British government’s federal scheme as per Government of India Act 1935. He had been proposing a mass movement for ‘Purna Swaraj’, unlike other elements within the party which were in favor of accepting the new concessions from the British. However, the old guard, including Mahatma Gandhi, refused to heed to his words. Therefore he contested for re-election to the presidency of the next annual Congress session that was to be held in Tripuri.

Unlike today’s Congress party, there were real elections to the post of president during that time. He won against Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Sitarammayya (1,575 to 1,376 votes). In response, the entire CWC (Congress working committee) resigned. He wrote about the events in November 1939 :

Towards the end of 1939 election of the Congress president for the year took place. The decision to offer myself for the position was an act of dare devilry, majority of the Congressmen being of the view that the chances of success were remote. My justification for standing was that by doing so I would strengthen the anti-federation, cause no matter what the result of the contest might be. There is no doubt that the result brought disappointment to the rightists, sent a thrill of joy and self-confidence to all leftists in the country. ‘Federation is now dead as a doornail’- was the universal comment on my re-election. ‘The work of twenty year has been undone’ -was the remark at Wardha.

But Gandhians were not to be discomfited so easily. Mahatma Gandhi was stirred to activity, proclaiming to the world (and quite wrongly in my own opinion) that Dr Pattabhi’s defeat was his own defeat. The party machinery set with full force and preparations were made for a battle royal at the annual session of the Congress which was to meet at Tripuri in March last.  [..]

The question of Swaraj was receded to the background and the one thought and endeavour of Gandhiites was to avenge their defeat at presidential election, about which they were optimistic, having won over Jawaharlal Nehru in the meantime.

Subhash Bose’s exit from the Congress party

Thereafter, he was shunted out of the Congress party because he had the charisma and ability to win an election against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi. The Congress party’s official website admits to the Bose’s ouster within the Congress party after the Tripuri session :

Netaji was a sick man at Tripuri, but even so, with amazing and almost prophetic foresight, he warned that an imperialist war would break out in Europe within six months. He demanded that the Congress should deliver a six – month ultimatum to Britain and in the event of its rejection a country-wide struggle for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ should be launched.

His warning and advice went unheeded, and what was worse, his powers as President were sought to be curtailed. He therefore resigned in April 1939, and announced in May 1939 the formation of the Forward Bloc within the Congress. In August, he was removed from the Presidency of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee, and further debarred from holding any elective office in the Congress for a period of three years. In September 1939 war broke out in Europe, and Netaji’s prophecy at Tripuri came true almost to the very day.

This shows how the Congress party treated a popular leader like Netaji Subhash Bose because he had the ability to shine, unlike a compliant Nehru. Had he been allowed to lead Congress in Tripuri, he might have led India in the future. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The case of Subhash Chandra Bose, shows that no popular leader of capability is ever allowed to rise in its system.


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