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Bengal celebrates Jyoti Basu’s birth centenary


Kolkata, July 8 :

West Bengal Tuesday celebrated the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu – one of the most revered Indian politicians and the state’s former chief minister – with blood donation camps, seminars and cultural programmes.

The Marxist patriarch, who holds the record in post-independence India for the longest chief ministerial tenure and narrowly missed becoming the country’s prime minister, is credited with having successfully made centre-state relations a major debating point in the late 1970s and 1980s and emerging as a central figure in anti-Congress political space at the national level.

Jyoti Basu
Jyoti Basu

In the morning, Basu’s portrait was garlanded in the assembly by Speaker Biman Banerjee and Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), of which Basu was a founding member, organised programmes across the state to celebrate the occasion.

Basu’s photos were garlanded outside CPI-M offices and those of its various mass organisations in the city and the districts. The party organised blood donation camps, discussions and seminars, highlighting his life and contribution and dwelling on the present political scenario in the country and the state.

The central function was held at the sprawling Nazrul Mancha where Left Front leaders stressed on Left unity and reflected on the errors committed during recent elections.

CPI-M state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said Basu’s life was a shining example for young comrades in abiding by party discipline.

Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar questioned the call given for an anti-Congress and anti-Bharatiya Janata Party alternative during the recent elections in the absence of any solid understanding among Left parties.

“Had Jyoti Babu been there, such a slogan would have not come out,” he said.

All India Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh expressed concern for the Left parties suffering a serious loss of their mass base.

“When we address these issues we can pay the real tribute to Jyoti Basu,” said Ghosh.

Basu had stewarded the state’s Left front government as chief minister from 1977 to 2000, that earned him accolades from both within the country and abroad for his skills in running a coalition successfully in a multi-party democratic set-up.

Basu’s close aide Sarit Bandyopdhyay Asaid he was a “multifaceted personality” with a razor-sharp memory and had a open mind on all matters. He also followed sports.

Refering to the turn of events in 1996 when the CPI-M prevented Basu from becoming prime minister at the head of the United Front government, Bose said that Basu accepted the party decision like a “true communist”. However, later Basu had dubbed the decision a “historic blunder”.

Basu’s successor as chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Basu had placed the struggle of peasants and working classes at the centre of politics.

“The fight for land was carried forward by providing pattas (land titles) to landless farmers. The rights of sharecropeprs was also protected,” he said.

The CPI-M politburo minister also recalled how the “secular” Basu ensured that Bengal remained free from communal strife in 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Economist Prabhat Patanik also addressed the programme.

Born July 8, 1914, Basu joined the CPI in 1940 and began his work in the railway trade union movement. In 1946, he was elected to the Bengal legislative assembly from the Railway constituency.

He played a key role in the development of the CPI in India and was the secretary of its provincial committee from 1954 to 1960. He became a member of the central committee of the CPI in 1951. When the CPI-M was formed in 1964, he became one of the founder politburo and central committee members.

He passed away Jan 17, 2010. His body was handed over to the SSKM hospital in deference to his wish that it be donated for medical research after his death. His eyes were used to give vision to a till-then blind person.