The real importance of the BJP president, Mr. Lal Krishna Advani's announcement at the recent party national executive meeting in New Delhi has gone unnoticed. The "Swaraj to Suraj Yatra" he plans to undertake is at best a political exercise to take his message of "Su-Rajya" (good governance) to the people. The means being used for this purpose has understandably lost some of its novelty and therefore, apprehensions of a muted response are not entirely misplaced.

What, however, is of interest is Mr Advani's audacious attempt to co-opt Subhas Chandra Bose in the pantheon of proponents of Hindutva and make him the mascot of his Yatra. If the Yatra is successful, then not only does the BJP stand to gain electorally, but Subhash Chandra Bose will be freed from the confines of political myth-making that has reduced him to callendar lithographs which adorn living rooms in provincial Bengal and the dimly lit offices of Forward Bloc in Calcutta.

In a sense, the appropriation of Subhash Chandra Bose by the BJP is a posthumous homecoming for a nationalist who believed that rashtrabhakti is a synthesis of religion and nationalism, of the spiritual and the political. In the early decades of this century, when others were looking up to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi for inspiration, Bose was looking elsewhere for guidance: His search for a religious philosophy that would spur political activism led him to explore the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and the writings of Aurobindo Ghosh. The latter made a lasting impression on his mind, providing his political activism with a religious side.

The profound Impact that Aurobindo Ghosh had on Subhash Chandra Bose is reflected in his autobiography: "In my undergraduate days, Aurobindo Ghosh was easily the most popular leader in Bengal... a mixture of spirituality and politics had given him a halo of mysticism and made his personality more fascinating to those who were religiously inclined... We felt convinced that spiritual enlightenment was necessaly for effective national service..."

It is, therefore, not surprising that he should have also been influenced by Bankim Chandra Chattergee's construction of nationalism. And like Aurobindo Ghosh, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Indian nation for him extended beyond the geographical to the devotional plane. During his college days he discovered the wretchedness of not India but "impoverished Mother India."