Saturday, May 3, 2014

All India Forward Bloc is 75 years old

On May 3, 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose founded the political faction which later became the All India Forward Bloc. This political party is small in size but is active in many states of the country.
All India Forward Bloc flag
The Forward Bloc of the Indian National Congress was formed by Bose, who had resigned from the presidency of the Indian National Congress on April 29 after being outmaneuvered by Mohandas K. Gandhi. The formation of the Forward Bloc was announced to the public at a rally in Calcutta.

Initially the aim of the Forward Bloc was to rally all the leftwing sections within the Congress and develop an alternative leadership inside the Congress. Bose became the president of the Forward Bloc and S.S. Cavesheer its vice-president. A Forward Bloc Conference was held in Bombay in the end of June. At that conference the constitution and programme of the Forward Bloc were approved. In July 1939 Subhas Chandra Bose announced the Committee of the Forward Bloc. It had Subhas Chandra Bose as president, S.S. Cavesheer from Punjab as its vice-president, Lal Shankarlal from Delhi, as its general secretary and Pandit B Tripathi and Khurshed Nariman from Bombay as secretaries. Thereby, the leading positions were distributed amon members in the main cities of the country.
Bose arriving at the 1939 Indian National Congress annual session. He was re elected president but later resigned (Personal album of Tony Mitra, Wikimedia Commons)
In August the same year Bose began publishing a newspaper titled Forward Bloc. He travelled around the country, rallying support for his new political project.

The following year, on June 20–22, 1940, the Forward Bloc held its first All India Conference in Nagpur. The conference declared the Forward Bloc to be a socialist political party, and the date of June 22 is considered as the founding date of the party by the Forward Bloc itself. From then on, it functioned as a separate political party as against a faction within the Congress. The conference passed a resolution titled 'All Power to the Indian People', urging militant action for struggle against British colonial rule. Subhas Chandra Bose was elected as the president of the party.

Soon thereafter, on July 2, Bose was arrested and detained in Presidency Jail, Calcutta. In January 1941 he escaped from house arrest, and clandestinely went into exile. He travelled to the Soviet Union via Afghanistan, seeking Soviet support for the Indian independence struggle. Stalin declined Bose's request, and he then travelled to Germany. In Berlin he set up the Free India Centre, and rallied the Indian Legion.

In August 1942 the British authorities banned the Forward Bloc. Its offices around the country were ransacked. In 1943 Bose was transported to Asia, where he took over the leadership of the Indian National Army. During the final phase of the war the INA fought alongside the Japanese against the British army.

Inside India, local activists of the Forward Bloc continued the anti-British activities without central coordination. For example, in Bihar members were involved in the Azad Dasta resistance groups, and distributed propaganda in support of Bose and INA. They did not have, however, any organic link neither with Bose nor the INA.

Bose died on August 18, 1945, from severe burn wounds after the plane he was traveling crashed in Taipei, Formosa. His political party was reorganized after the war. Its stronghold remains to be West Bengal while powerful sections are also present several other states. In the 2009 Indian General Election, the party contested as part of the Left Front and won 2 seats in West Bengal.

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