A CALENDAR bearing Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s face flutters in the living room of Chandra Kumar Bose’s South Kolkata home. He is Netaji’s grand-nephew and the BJP candidate against Trinamool Congress CM Mamata Banerjee in Bhowanipore.
“I have my task cut out,” he agreed, “but I will ensure my grand-uncle’s ideals are upheld.” He explained: “Had Netaji been alive, he wouldn’t have allowed any member of his family to be in politics. So particular was he about not showing favouritism.”
Netaji’s family has, in fact, had generations of politicians. “Netaji’s elder brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, was president of the Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee and helped form the Indian National Army,” said Sujoy Ghosh, a Kolkata-based historian who has researched extensively on the family. “Sarat Bose was a member of the All India Congress Committee too but resigned in 1947. He later led the Forward Bloc and formed the Socialist Republican Party.”
Three of Sarat Bose’s sons — Amiya Nath, Sisir Kumar and Subrata — went on to enter politics. Chandra Bose is Amiya Nath Bose’s son. “He was associated with the Janata Party and was the Indian ambassador to Burma,” Chandra Bose said of his father. Sisir Kumar Bose was with the Congress, Subrata Bose with the Forward Bloc.
Amiya Nath also became the chief custodian of the Bose brothers’ works after Sarat Bose died in 1950. He researched and collected a volume of documents on Netaji’s life from archives in the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan and India during 1950-1990.
Sisir Kumar Bose was a leading paediatrician and also remembered for driving Netaji from Kolkata to Gomoh during his escape. He represented Chowringhee in the assembly in the 1980s. “Sisir Kumar Bose’s daring role in Netaji’s escape is the stuff legends are made of,” Chandra Bose said. “Many believe Netaji chose Sisir Bose, who was a medical student then, for a reason — since Sisir Bose kept a low profile and was involved in his studies, the police wouldn’t suspect him.”
Sisir’s wife Krishna Bose, too, was with the Congress before joining the Trinamool Congress in the 1990s and becoming an MP. Their son Sugata Bose, a historian, is now the Trinamool MP from Jadavpur. This puts two of Netaji’s grand-nephews in rival parties. In 2014, Chandra Bose was campaigning against Sugata in Jadavpur. “My only grouse is that he called the demand for declassification of Netaji files a non-issue,” Chandra Bose said. “As a family, we find that unpardonable.”
That election, many descendants of Netaji had campaigned for CPM candidates. Grand-niece Madhuri Bose, for example, had campaigned for Subhashini Ali. Some members of the family recently objected to Sugata Bose having used Netaji’s name to woo voters. Sugata denied it. “I have never used Netaji’s name to woo voters. I can’t help the fact that I am related to him,” Sugata said. “The real celebration of Netaji’s life and work would be understanding the great leader without indulging in politics over his disappearance and death.”
West Bengal minister Amit Mitra too belongs to the family. “I too am Netaji’s grand-nephew My maternal grandfather, Suresh Bose, was Netaji’s brother,” he said. “I never used this connection while campaigning because I don’t think my belonging to the family has anything to do with my credentials.”
In fact, there has never been an effort to project the Bose family as a political dynasty. “We are a family of intellectuals, businessmen, academics too,” said Ardhendu Bose, son of Netaji’s younger brother Sailesh Bose, and a businessman based in Mumbai. “It’s not as if we are trained to be just politicians. Sugata Bose is a scholar and historian, Amit Mitra is scholar who taught in Duke, Chandra Bose has worked with Tata Steel. Members of the Bose family have joined politics to give it something, not to take from it.”
Grand-nephews, grand-nieces: Sugata Bose (TMC MP); Amit Mitra (TMC minister); Chandra Kumar Bose (BJP candidate); Madhuri Bose (Left campaigner)
Nephews, nieces: Sisir and Krishna Bose (Sugata Bose’s parents, Congress and TMC); Amiya Nath Bose (Chandra’s father, Janata Party); Subrata Bose (Forward Bloc)
Brother: Sarat Chandra Bose (father of Sisir, Amiya, Subrata; Congress, Forward Bloc, Socialist Republican Party)