With new-look flag, Forward Bloc’s tiger takes the leap: Communism to ‘Subhasism’

The All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), which was founded by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1939, recently decided to drop hammer and sickle from its flag, while retaining the iconic image of leaping tiger against a red background on it.

The decision has been taken as part of the AIFB’s proposed move to return to its roots, marking an ideological shift from communism to Subhasism – the party founder’s ideology of socialism – according to the party leadership.

Netaji had himself selected the design of the AIFB’s flag with a leaping tiger on a background of tricolour – which was also the flag of the Azad Hind government. Subsequently, reflecting the influence of the communist ideology over it, the party inserted hammer and sickle and red background to its flag in 1949.

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Nearly 82 years after that event, the AIFB leadership has now decided to effect a change in the party’s ideology, dispensing with globally-known icons of communism – hammer and sickle – while retaining the elements of leaping tiger and red backdrop on the flag.

The AIFB’s West Bengal state secretary Naren Chatterjee said that the new party flag will be hoisted on July 22 – the day 82 years ago, in 1939, when the party’s first all-India session was held in Mumbai, where its constitution and programme were adopted. Subhas Chandra had resigned from the Congress presidentship on April 29, 1939, and on May 3, 1939, he declared the formation of the Forward Bloc.

“Our National Council had a meeting at Bhubaneswar last week, where more than three hundred delegates were present and 46 delegates participated in the discussions. During the conclave, the

National Council decided to make these changes to our flag,” Chatterjee told The Indian Express.

Asked why the party felt the need to redesign its flag now, Chatterjee said, “A majority of our party leaders think that the concept of communist international has gone. Communists are moving towards a socialist position. Hammer and sickle have also become obsolete. Farmers now use cutter machines instead of sickles and workers also do not use hammers. So, we decided to shift towards the socialist approach from our communist position.”

He said the party flag will retain the leaping tiger and red background since “red colour symbolises the sacrifice of our martyrs and leaping tiger is the symbol of courage that was introduced by Netaji”.

A section of the AIFB leaders, however, said there are some other reasons behind the move as well.

A senior party leader said, “Forward Bloc has been part of the Left Front under the CPI(M) leadership for about four decades. This increased its dependence on the communist party. Hammer and sickle were introduced to the party flag at the Puri Congress in 1949. The upsurge of Soviet Union and other communist countries and the concept of communist international had probably driven our leadership towards it.”

Chatterjee made it clear that “Our party will now also shift from the communist ideology and grow only with the ideology of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose”.

A section of the AIFB leaders believe that the move would help the party to gain a firmer footing in some states at a time when the Left parties have been losing their ground virtually everywhere across the country.

The AIFB has also shrunk in the country over the decades. Currently, the party does not have any legislator in West Bengal, with its vote share in various recent elections plummeting to barely 1-2 per cent in the state.

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