Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Speech at Shraddhananda Park, Published in Forward Bloc

Sj. Bose said that he believed that if the Rightists had not been bent on compromise to which they knew the other side would never be a party, there would have been a settlement of the differences between the two parties and they would not have heard the talk of homogeneous Cabinet. When it was found that they would not have plain sailing, the need for having one as Congress President who would follow their lead and submit to their decision was felt. That was why it was said “His (Subhas Babu's) re-election is harmful to the cause of the country." This was, said Sj. Bose, the genesis of the fight over the Presidential election last year.

In a statement in July 1938 when he was President, Sj. Bose said, he gave a public statement that he had heard reports that there were attempts at compromise over the question of Federation which the British Government were anxious to introduce at an early date. Sj. Bose in his statement said that if there was compromise on the issue of Federation and even if the majority of the Congressmen accepted it they would not take it as a national verdict but would carry on agitation against it resigning from office, if necessary. The Rightists were alarmed at the declaration that he (Sj. Bose) and men of his way of thinking would not abide by majority decision. From that moment they started the movement for the consolidation of the Rightists. Another point which gave offence to the Gandhites was the constitution of the National Planning Committee. They felt an apprehension that if the work of the Committee was successful, the life work of Gandhiji would be undone. What was the reason for this apprehension was not known, though it was made clear that the main duty of the Committee would be to find out which industries were capable of best development as home industry and which as large-scale machine industry.

Ultimatum to Britain
There was another episode which gave offence to the Rightists. During his tour in the UP and the Punjab that year he told people that the Federation might not come owing to the development of the international situation. But they must be ready. The time might come when they would be in a position to give an ultimatum to the British Government to fulfil their demands. When he had taken up that attitude it was decided that he must not be re-elected as Congress President. The Jalpaiguri Conference unanimously accepted the decision to give an ultimatum to the British Government. When this resolution was put before the Tripuri session of the Congress, it was laughed at by some. What would have been the position now, asked Sj. Bose, if that resolution had been accepted by the Congress. They would not have been caught unprepared as they were when the war broke out in September. That the war was imminent was known to all. Ever since 1927 the Congress had been passing resolutions on war. But the only political organisation which had been caught unprepared by the war in the whole of the civilised world was the Congress. The responsibility for this must go to the men who ran the Congress. If timely action had been taken, the Congress would not have been brought to the pass in which it was now found.

The responsibility for quarrels in the ranks of the Congress was now laid at the doors of the Leftists. But the Rightists had started consolidating their position long before the Leftists thought of their own consolidation. Now if the Rightists had started consolidation only to lead the country to fight there would not have been any quarrel. But how could they sit idle when they saw the Congress being led away from the path of fight?

Forward Bloc
Proceeding Sj. Bose said that when he saw Gandhiji at Wardha on February 15 last year after the Presidential election, Gandhiji plainly told him that as the country was weak there could not be any satyagraha at this stage. There would be bloodshed, disorder if they started it in the present condition of the country. Gandhiji told Sj. Bose plainly that there could not be any fight. During the last session of the AICC in Calcutta it was stated plainly that they would not engage in any struggle. Pandit Jawaharlal told him not to form a separate organisation, the Forward Bloc. But he could not agree with Pandit Jawaharlal. He could not see Congress reduced to an effete organisation, a National Liberal Federation. They wanted that they should infuse new life into the Congress, that was how the Forward Bloc came into existence.

He did not know, proceeded Sj. Bose, what would happen at Ramgarh. But he believed that a compromise would be arrived at before Ramgarh and the Congress would be asked to endorse it, or it might be a mandate which would be taken from the Ramgarh Congress to come to some settlement shortly after. If Bengal and other provinces would send a large contingent of Leftists, this plan might be upset

Obstacles to Leftists
Sj. Bose referred to instances in Andhra, Delhi, Karnatak, Frontier Province and Bombay where obstacles were put in way of Leftists' gaining the power.

Referring to Behar, Sj. Bose said when he visited Patna last time one gentleman humorously told him that the auditor who inspected BPCC accounts was meant for Behar, but he missed his way and went to Calcutta (laughter). They in Behnr had been crying for auditing the PCC account for the last six years in vain. They also knew how the Violence Enquiry Committee report was shelved.

Rightists and Leftists
The Ramgarh Congress would clearly show which way the Congress was going. A Leftist was he who would not compromise. A Rightist was he who shrank from fight and was anxious for compromise. There might be so-called Leftists who wanted to avoid fight, but who were in essence Rightists. There might be so-called Rightists, who might have faith at present in the leadership of Gandhiji, but might soon be disillusioned and plunge into light, they were really Leftists. The real difference between Rightists and Leftists was while the former would not fight, but were anxious for compromise, the latter stood for complete independence and would on no account compromise on this issue.

Gandhiji talked of honourable compromise. But there could not be any compromise between Independence and dependence. [If] They wanted full Independence how there could be any compromise with honour on this issue? The talk of honourable compromise seemed to him a hoax, though this was a rather strong word with regard to Gandhiji.

Moslem Attitude
Sj. Bose believed that if the fight was started the Moslem would join them. Even now 400 leaders of the Ahrar party in the Punjab were in jail. The fact was that the Moslems distrusted the present Congress High Command and they had lost faith In Mahatma Gandhi also. In meetings addressed by him, said Sj. Bose, Moslems attended in large number. It was not a fact that the Moslems would not fight for Independence of India.

If compromise was effected as Ramgarh, Sj. Bose feared that there might be two Congresses. There were people who would not tolerate the Congress side-tracked from the path of full independence.

Finally Sj. Bose appealed to all to support the candidates whom they would set up in the next municipal election. He thought that very soon the order would come that the Congress should not set up any candidate in the municipal election. But whatever might he the order, they would not withdraw from the field, said Sj. Bose.

Finally Sj. Bose put to the meeting if they supported the stand they had taken that they would not recognise the 'Ad Hoc' committee, that if as a result of this stand they were driven out of the Ramgarh Congress they would be prepared to face all consequences. The meeting without any opposition agreed to the resolutions. The meeting also unanimously expressed the opinion that they were all ready for fight and they would not agree to any compromise which might be decided by the Congress.