By Biman Basu
IT is true that Comrade Jyoti Basu was in an advanced age. Still it is difficult to believe that he is now no more among us. Jyoti Basu was one of the leaders belonging to the first generation of the Indian communist movement. In the last seven decades, he was an undisputable leader of Bengal and of India’s communist movement, as well as of the democratic and secular movement of the country.
Speaking personally, when I received my party membership in 1958, the red card that I got bore the signature of Jyoti Basu as he was then the state party secretary. I had heard Jyoti Basu’s speeches much before I received my party membership. Many a time it seemed to me that Jyoti Basu is completing the whole sentence of his speech and moving to a different issue but that did not deter anyone from understanding the context of his speech. He had a rare ability to present any topic in a common, eligible manner, which not all the people possess. Jyoti Basu was also an extremely adept administrator. We have also received glimpses of this ability of his, during the United Front governments of 1967 and 1969. When he was the leader of the opposition, at that time also we had observed his skills in objectively presenting the people’s demand incisively --- within the state assembly as well as in the rallies outside the assembly. As a political leader, his possession of these rare skills had made him an endearing character in the eyes of the Left parties and of the common man of the country.
Alongside Comrade Promod Dasgupta, he played an important role in building up the Left Front and its government in 1977. After the Left Front government came into being in June 1977, Comrades Promod Dasgupta and Jyoti Basu in a joint press release had made a bold appeal to the people not to adopt any revengeful attitude vis-à-vis the Congress party which had earlier sought to subdue by force the democratic movements led by the communists. Such an attitude, they said, was not at all expected from any Leftist or communist. In the interests of the common people of the state and to enrich the entire economy of the country, he had mooted many proposals. As the chief minister of the state, he undertook radical land reforms and established a vigorous panchayati raj system in the interest of the peasants and landless agricultural labourers. This not only decimated the power of the rich landlords in West Bengal but also resulted in a wave of development in the rural economy of the state. Comrade Jyoti Basu played an unparalleled role in each of these endeavours. Demanding reorganisation of the centre-state relations and strengthening of the constitutional provisions regarding the federal structure of our polity, he had tried to build up popular opinion through out the country and had been in the forefront in organising the meetings of chief ministers of various states on this issue. He had been extremely vocal in this regard.
Comrade Jyoti Basu also conducted powerful movements for the establishment of the Salt Lake electronics complex, Bakreswar thermal power project, for a petrochemicals industry in Haldia. Valiant struggles were fought for materialisation of these projects. For the promotion of industries in the state, he initiated a new economic policy in the state in 1994; it was an attempt to build up industries on a joint platform. He also urged upon the industrialists to invest in the state. His message to the industrialists in the state and outside was that West Bengal is an investment friendly state. Comrade Jyoti Basu played a proactive role in attracting those who were interested in investing in the state. In this manner, and also through other methods, he tried tirelessly to create job opportunities for the unemployed youth of the state.
Comrade Jyoti Basu had been a tireless fighter for secularism. He always strove to uproot the evil of communalism from the country.
In the prime of his political life, Jyoti Basu took an active part in the struggles to uphold the rights of the working class; he played a vital role in organising the railway workers and was deeply involved in its day-to-day organisational chores. He was elected to the Bengal assembly from the railway workers constituency in 1946 and thus became actively involved in the parliamentary politics, which involvement continued till the year 2000.
Comrade Jyoti Basu showed tremendous ability to attract the people from all walks of life. With his demise, West Bengal and India have lost an astute politician who was really unparalleled and farsighted in real terms.