Being involved in the most crucial period of the struggle for making an Independent India, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose worked towards the same with utmost commitment. However, there have been attempts made to malign the cordial relationship the two leaders shared.
Not many know that Nehru and Bose shared a close bond, even when they had a few differences.
Historian Rudrangshu Mukherjee recalls that Nehru wept when he heard the news of Bose getting killed in a plane crash on August 18, 1945.
“The Nehru-Bose relationship was comradely and warm. They together built the youth leagues around the ideas of socialism and complete independence in the late 1920s,” said historian Mridula Mukherjee.
In 1936, when it was decided that Nehru will be the Congress President, Bose wrote to Nehru welcoming Congress’ decision.
“Among the front rank leaders of today—you are the only one to whom we can look up to for leading the Congress in a progressive direction…I wish you a safe journey home and plenty of luck in the arduous task that awaits you. If I am allowed to come to Lucknow, my services will be at your disposal,” Bose had written.
Soon after Bose’s death, his elder brother’s son wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asking if he could send small sums of money to his aunt (Bose’s wife) in Vienna.
“I want to send, from time to time, small sums of money to my aunt in Vienna. If I proceed through the Reserve Bank of India and the Austrian National Bank, the latter may raise objections and create complications. I should therefore like to know if it can be arranged that I hand over the money to the foreign office in Calcutta and the vice-consul in Vienna passes on its equivalent in Austrian currency to her,” Amiya Nath Bose, Sarat Chandra Bose’s son, had written.
Nehru not only ensured that the same would be done but also forwarded it further as a “special case.”
“Will you please enquire from finance and from external affairs ministry if small sums of money can be sent this way? ….there should be no difficulty in external affairs dealing with this matter, as a rather special case…we should like to facilitate help being sent to her,” Nehru had written to relevant officers.
In another such instance, when Bose left the Congress following his rift with Mahatma Gandhi, there was no sign of discord between Nehru and Bose. Neither did Nehru support Bose, nor did he stood alongside Mahatma Gandhi.
“He [Nehru] disapproved of the manner in which Bose was being hounded out after winning an election, but he could not bring himself to support Bose…although some of his statements remains critical of Bose, at Tripuri [Congress Session of 1939] he remained almost silent, tried in private discussions to patch up a compromise and urged Bose not to resign,” S. Gopal wrote in the book Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, Vol. 1.
Also, when Bose founded the Indian National Army (INA) in 1942, he named one of its five regiments after Nehru.
In January 1946, Nehru noted that “Netaji Subhas has set an example of courage and passionate devotion to the cause of Indian freedom, which will live long in India’s history.”
Also, on Bose’s 49th birth anniversary, Nehru said, “Some people ask me why I am now praising Subhas Bose when I had opposed him while he was in India. I want to give a frank reply to this question. Subhas Bose and I were co-workers in the struggle for freedom for 25 years. He was younger to me by two or four years. Our relations with each other were marked by great affection. I used to treat him as my younger brother. It is an open secret that at times there were differences between us on political questions. But I never for a moment doubted that he was a brave soldier in the struggle for freedom.I do not expect that there would be unanimity on every issue when we have achieved freedom. There will be always differences in the outlook of the people who belong to a healthy race. Such differences are welcome. People who behave like sheep cannot make any progress.…The manner in which Netaji faced the crisis inspires admiration. Perhaps I might have done the same thing if I were in his position.”
So, the two freedom fighters not only played a crucial role in India’s journey towards Independence but also maintained a cordial relationship with each other, by respecting each other’s views, even if they were conflicting.