KOLKATA, 29th January: He came, saw and conquered. Having been associated with this mela, which he could watch from his Indira Bhavan terrace for the last 19 years, Jyoti Basu took a stroll was driven around, to be precise at Bidhannagar Mela, for old times' sake.
Around 5.40 pm, the veteran Marxist came to the mela ground, saw and won hearts in just a few minutes, despite age and failing health. Jyoti babu also accepted bouquets from the mela organisers. All the while he sat inside his car, disappointing the crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of the jananeta. The nonagenarian preferred to remain within the confines of his home for the last two months. The only other time he had been outdoors was when he called on son Chandan (barely a five-minute drive from his Salt Lake residence) last week. But public appearances have become quite a no-no for the former chief minister.
Wednesday was an exception. "We have been advising him to move around but Jyoti babu does not seem too keen on it," confessed a physician. Under the circumstances, the fair committee members did not quite expect him to climb the dais as he always would. Instead, they were happy to greet Jyoti Basu as he sat in the car.
"He just smiled and touched my hand. As he hasn't been keeping well, we did not want to bother him. We are happy that he could make it," said Ila Nandy, vice-chairperson of Bidhannagar Municipality, who is also a mela committee member. The committee members had invited him, knowing that he may not be able to visit, after all. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that Basu wished to come to the mela, which he has been inaugurating for the past 19 years.
"He could not do the honours this time because of indisposition. But since he wanted to attend the mela, we took him today," said Basu's confidential assistant Joykrishna Ghosh.