A historian cannot but talk history, be it in a Harvard classroom or in front of a hometown crowd of political supporters.
Sugata Bose, professor of oceanic history at Harvard University and the Trinamul Congress’s candidate for the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat, peppered his 17-minute speech at his first karmi sabha (workers’ meet) with nuggets of history to illustrate why he had thrown his hat in the ring and what he wanted his supporters to tell the voters.
It was appropriate that two of Bose’s students — Neeti Nair, in her mid-30s, and Mou Banerjee, in her mid-20s — were in the audience at the Raas ground in Baruipur, around 25km from the city, on Wednesday. And like a good teacher does, he came prepared with notes for the meeting.
More than 2,000 Trinamul workers from Kodalia, Tongtala, Rajpur, Chandaneswar and Padmapukur braved the afternoon sun to hear Bose speak for the first time as a politician, a debut performance marked by passages from the past connecting with the political present.
Metro compiles a short history of Bose the candidate’s first day on the dais.
Mamata & March 18
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had flagged off the series of district conferences at Pailan on Tuesday, introducing Bose and four other candidates from South 24-Parganas to party supporters. During his speech on Wednesday afternoon, Bose spoke of the historical significance of March 18.
“On March 18, 70 years ago, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army crossed the Indo-Burma border. Didi’s campaign started on an auspicious day.”
Mamata’s plan to stitch together a federal front of regional parties has yet to take shape but Bose banked on history to justify the experiment.
“In his book Soul of India, Bipin Chandra Pal (of the triumvirate Lal-Bal-Pal) wrote why India was known as Bharatvarsha. Pal explained that there was a king called Bharat, who was a king at the centre of kings and India is named after him… We want a government which is at the Centre of state governments. That is our federal front. Trinamul has a national perspective.”
The outsider tag
Bose quoted grand uncle Subhas Chandra Bose to trump the Opposition’s charge — a section of Trinamul has joined the chorus — that he was “an outsider”.
“When Netaji was being abused by the communists…he had said, ‘My allegiance has forever been and will always be with India and India alone, wherever I may lie in the world….’ Tell my opponents, our candidate has raised Bengal’s prestige in the international arena,” he said. “Whether I become an MP or not, whether I stay here or not, I will continue to work for the people of Jadavpur.”
Bose harked back to the late 90s when his mother Krishna had contested the seat and gone on to win it three consecutive times. “I attended meetings here when my mother used to campaign. I remember many of the people in this area,” he said.
Bose again invoked Bose to make his point. “Netaji had said, the roads to Delhi are many and Delhi is still our goal… If we can go to Delhi with 42 seats, then Delhi cannot put obstacles on our road to development.”
The audience was impressed. “Never before have I heard a new candidate speak with such clarity. He comes from a family of great nationalists and that showed,” said Shyamsundar Chakraborty, a party leader from Baruipur.
The historian rounded off his speech by giving his supporters a history-laced lesson in campaigning.
“When talking about CPM, ask the voters to compare the 34 years of Left Front with 34 months of Trinamul.... There is nothing much to say about the Congress....The other contender (Narendra Modi) is splashing huge advertisements for an image makeover. He must have done something terribly wrong, that is why he needs advertisements.”