Nehru and Bose: Tension-fraught and passing friendship

Subhash Chandra Bose, a revolutionary; Jawaharlal Nehru, the quintessential democrat. Could the twain ever meet? Sadly not says a new book by historian and educationist Rudrangshu Mukherjee on the parallel lives of two stalwarts of India's freedom movement.

IANS| Updated: Dec 09, 2014, 20:47 PM IST
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New Delhi: Subhash Chandra Bose, a revolutionary; Jawaharlal Nehru, the quintessential democrat. Could the twain ever meet? Sadly not says a new book by historian and educationist Rudrangshu Mukherjee on the parallel lives of two stalwarts of India's freedom movement.

“Subhas believed that he and Jawaharlal could make history together. But Jawaharlal could not see his destiny without Gandhi. This was the limiting point of their relationship: one man who was certain that nothing mattered to him more than the freedom of India; and another individual who also cherished his country's freedom but tried valiantly to link it to his other and often conflicting loyalties,” Mukherjee, currently Vice Chancellor of Ashoka University, writes in ‘Nehru & Bose, Parallel Lives’ (Penguin-Viking, pp265, Rs.599).

“In the crevasse of this rivalry of aims fell the tension-fraught and passing friendship of Subhas and Jawaharlal. Their lives could have no tryst,” says Mukherjee, who has earlier taught at Calcutta University and has held visiting appointments at Princeton and the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Both the leaders came from a highly educated background, with Bose being slightly ahead of Nehru but with their different political ideologies, Bose and Nehru drifted away from each other.

The author writes about the potential friendship that failed to blossom against the turbulent backdrop of India’s struggle for independence, and on how their individual decisions left an impact on each other, drifting away and yet remaining parallel.

When talking of Nehru and Bose in the context of India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi’s name cannot be missed out. Thus, the book sums up the biography of not two but three towering figures of the freedom movement.

The book was launched on Monday in the presence of former West Bengal governor and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Asked what inspired him to pen this book, Mukherjee said: “I read biographies of Nehru by Sarvapalli Gopal and Bose by Sugata Bose (TMC MP and grandnephew of Bose). Inspired would be a wrong word, I would rather was influenced to go for a detail study on the lives of these two leaders.”

Mukherjee, who has several books to his credit, some focusing on the First War of Independence in 1857, also sought to dispel the perception of enmity that Bose and Nehru shared.

“People, particularly the Bengali community, think that Nehru and Bose are arch rivals. But that is not true. There were things beyond the bitterness,” Mukherjee said.

For instance, the letters between them clearly indicated closeness from Bose’s part.

“They were extremely fond of each other. But Nehru never supported fascism which was favoured by Bose. Nehru could not accept of Bose joining hands with Hitler. And there the line was drawn,” said Mukherjee, who also writes for the English daily, The Telegraph.

Asked why he chose to write about the two leaders, Mukherjee said that it was more of an intellectual challenge for him to come out of his comfort zone. Clubbing their lives were not an easy task, but that did not deter him.

“The book could be controversial but I am not scared of controversies. Let there be some debate,” he said.

“There was a gap between Nehru and Bose and I wanted to fill this. I wanted to break the myth than Nehru was not fond of Bose,” said Mukherjee.

The author was also scared of his bias towards Nehru.

“Nehru had a great impact on me, more so because my family was inclined towards the Nehru family. But Bose attracted me more. It is up to the readers to decide if I am biased or not,” Mukherjee added.