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Bengal Provincial Congress

Bengal Provincial Congress the Bengal chapter of the indian national congress. The Bengal Provincial Congress (BPC) was established in 1920. The first leader of the BPC was chitta ranjan das. While remaining within the Congress fold he formed the Swaraj Party in 1923 in opposition to Gandhi’s policy of ‘no-entry’ into the elected councils under the Government of India Act, 1919.

After Das’s death in 1926, the BPC was bitterly torn into two factions led by two of his closest lieutenants, Jatindra Mohan Sengupta and subhas chandra bose. Sengupta represented the interests of the high-caste Hindus, while Bose wanted to continue Das’s line of Hindu-Muslim accommodation in the political management of the BPC and in such local self-governing organisations as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Sengupta won the blessings and support of Gandhi and became president of the BPC. At the other extreme, two groups of national revolutionaries of Bengal were organised under the names jugantar and anushilan samiti. These two groups had some say in the BPC and up to 1928 both supported Subhas Bose. Later Yugantar continued its support to Bose while the Anushilan supported Sengupta. Apart from these two factions, there were a number of other groups in the BPC, particularly the Muslims and the communists. During the thirties, the Communist Party of India (CPI) operated under a different name and generally worked within the BPC.

Bankim Mukherjee, Bijay Modak, Benoy Chowdhury and other communists were all functioning within the BPC. Bose organised a democratic front within the BPC. The development sharpened the conflict between the two BPC factions. In the thirties the Yugantar group controlled the BPC executive committee. After Bose’s imprisonment in early 1930, effective control over the BPC passed into the hands of the ‘big five’ in Bengal politics, Nirmal Chandra Chander, Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, Tulsi Charan Goswami, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy and sarat chandra bose (elder brother of Subhas Bose). The ‘big five’, originally a creation of C.R Das, did not have much faith in Subhas Bose’s radical stance of politics. In Bose’s absence, the ‘big five’ especially Chandra, Roy and Sarkar gained effective control over the BPC. The Yugantar group was eventually pushed into the background. The ‘big five’ opposed the Sengupta-Anushilan faction. The faction-ridden BPC leadership incurred the displeasure of the central leadership of the Indian National Congress (INC) on the issue of Muslim representation in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

The bitter factionalism within the BPC snapped the bond between Yugantar leaders and the ‘big five’. Neither of these factions could pursue any positive political line. The followers of Gandhi within the BPC were numerically weak, and hence Gandhi’s position in Bengal politics was rather feeble. When the civil disobedience movement was launched in 1930, the BPC was no longer a united political platform.

The Sengupta-Anushilan faction organised its own forum, the Bengal Civil Disobedience Council. Regional affiliation and factional interests, rather than national feelings, began affecting the BPC, which failed to enlist support of the Muslims and the lower castes. After the first elections to the provincial legislatures in 1937 under the Government of India Act, 1935, AK FAZLUL HUQ, the popular leader of the Bengal peasantry, proposed a coalition ministry of his Krishak-Praja Party and the Congress. But the BPC leadership was not allowed by the INC to go for a coalition with Fazlul Huq. Factionalism surfaced again in the BPC when Subhas Chandra Bose had to resign his presidentship of the INC in the aftermath of the Tripura session (1939) because of the non-cooperation and unrelenting opposition of Gandhi and his rightist lieutenants. Bose resumed his presidentship of the BPC and immediately came in conflict with the new working committee of the INC. Bose was subsequently suspended for three years and debarred from holding any elective post in the Congress organisation.

The BPC, with Bose as its president, however, continued to function as the ‘suspended BPC’, a parallel organisation to the ‘official BPC’ with Surendra Mohan Ghosh as its president. Eventually Subhas Bose left the INC and formed the Forward Bloc. The BPC came under the control of staunch followers of Gandhi, such as Surendra Mohan Ghosh, Dr Prafulla Chandra Ghosh and others. The parallel BPC, led by Khagendra Nath Dasgupta, Jyotish Chandra Ghosh, Rajendranath Deb and Afsaruddin Ahmed Chaudhury and others, continued till 1942. During 1942-45 there was no BPC as both the official and suspended committees were dissolved. The BPC played an ineffective role in confronting the growing strength of the muslim league (ML) in Bengal politics in the mid-forties. After the congress leaders came out of jail at the end of the Second World War, Sarat Chandra Bose took the initiative for a single united BPC for effectively contesting the elections to the provincial and central legislatures in late 1945 and early 1946. The new BPC committee comprised Sarat Chandra Bose, Hemanta Kumar Basu, Afsaruddin Ahmed Chaudhury, Dr P.C. Ghosh and Surendra Mohan Ghosh.

In May 1947 when the partition of India was already looming large on the political horizon, Sarat Bose of the BPC and huseyn shaheed suhrawardy of the Bengal unit of the Muslim League floated the idea of undivided Bengal as a free and sovereign state outside India and Pakistan. But the central leadership of both the INC and ML showed scant regard to the idea. On the eve of the transfer of power the BPC came under the control of Surendra Mohan Ghosh, and the emerging Hoogly group led by Prafulla Chandra Sen, Atulya Ghosh and Dhirendranath Mukherjee. Dr Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, then the only working committee member from Bengal, was elected leader of the Congress parliamentary party and thus became the first chief minister of west bengal in 1947.  [Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay]