It's some days past this year but every time August 9 comes around, I get restless, wondering if I am forgetting somebody's birthday or wedding anniversary, Then I realise that it's the anniversary of the Quit India Movement, launched against the British in 1942 from the August Kranti Maidan at Nana Chowk. The reason why it stays with me is because for years, as a young reporter, it was my permanent assignment to report on the preparations, dig up histories and make comparisons.
The tradition began in the mid-1980s. The Congress was celebrating its centenary in 1985 and August Kranti Maidan, where the tricolour was raised on August 9, 1942 by Dadabhai Naoroji's daughters, in the absence of other leaders who were all jailed, was a crucial part of those remembrances.
It has become a routine with the government of Maharashtra - even when the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power in 1995, then chief minister Manohar Joshi had no qualms about patronising the celebrations. I felt sorry for Joshi when two years later in 1997, as India was celebrating the golden jubilee of its Independence, he was publicly snubbed by Captain Laxmi Swaminathan, who headed the Rani Jhansi regiment in the INA. Joshi was electrified when he saw her and rushed to touch her feet. She moved away from him, much like a mother-in-law out of a saas-bahu serial, and said rather frostily, "Hum aap se nahin, hum Usha se milne aaye hain." Usha Mehta ran an underground radio service during the British regime and was being felicitated by the government that year.
Joshi looked like a whipped schoolboy and quickly moved away. All he could say was, "Of course, of course."
I have always felt that even if the Shiv Sena was a sectarian party, its sentiments about freedom and freedom fighters should be appreciated - after all Bal Thackeray had been an admirer of Indira Gandhi not just because she was dictatorial (he greatly admired Hitler) but because she had also had the gumption to dismember Pakistan.
Today, we have a government headed by the BJP whose ideologues opposed the Quit India Movement, were among those who were against Independence and agreed with Winston Churchill that India was doomed to be ruled by men of straw after the British quit the country.
Under the circumstances, it would have been difficult for the young and inexperienced chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, to defy his bosses and preside over the Quit India celebrations. The Congress has now pounced upon this faux pas, with its spokesperson Sachin Sawant turning the tables on the BJP and questioning its nationalism for failing to appreciate the sacrifice of our freedom fighters.
And that is not where the Congress has stopped in its recently-acquired combative mood - ever since Rahul Gandhi's 'suit-boot ki sarkar' derailed the Centre's land Bill, a renewed vigour has entered even the local party units. So Maharashtra Pradesh Congress president Ashok Chavan was quick to point out that the CM was dissembling when he announced that Foxconn would be investing $5 million in Maharahstra over the next few years. "Not Maharashtra alone. It will be investing $5 million across India,'' Chavan snapped back, pointing out that this disinformation was akin to Narendra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat claims where only less than 10% of the MoUs signed over the last 15 years have been realised or have translated into real investment or jobs for locals.
I am glad the Congress has risen from its stupor. I was afraid it was in danger of setting into rigor mortis.