By N Sankariah
IN the year 1963, when 32 members of the National Council of the Communist Party of India walked out of its meeting held in Delhi, Comrade Jyoti Basu was very prominent in leading this walkout. The same day there was a meeting of these 32 comrades held at 4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi, then the residence of Comrade A K Gopalan. At this meeting, views were exchanged on the future course of action needed to carry on the objectives of the walkout from the CPI’s National Council meeting.
Comrade Basu played an important role in this meeting which decided to call a convention of the party at Tenali in Andhra Pradesh to further plan out the steps necessary for the future of the party. The Tenali convention held between July 7 and 11, 1964 gave the call for convening the seventh congress of the party in Kolkata.
On the eve of the seventh party congress, when many leaders of the party in Bengal were arrested, Comrade Basu stood in the forefront in mobilising the people for the party congress in Kolkata, which took place from October 31 to November 7, 1964, and made it a great success.
Comrade Basu attended the third party congress and ninth party congress held in Madurai and the fourteenth party congress held in Chennai. He addressed many huge public meetings in several parts of Tamilnadu during his long association with our movement in the state. I accompanied him many times and translated his speeches from English to Tamil. His speeches were in simple language, direct and persuasive, and convincing for the audiences.
I must refer to his visit in June 1969 in particular, to commemorate the Kilavenmani incident in Thanjavur district, where 44 dalit agricultural labourers and poor peasants were burnt to death by landlords in 1968. Lakhs of toiling people attended this rally. Along with other leaders of our party in Tamilnadu, I was present on this occasion. This visit of Comrade Basu gave a great fillip to and strengthened the agrarian movement in Thanjavur district and Tamilnadu.
He inaugurated the Tamilnadu state committee building of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in T Nagar, Chennai, on March 30, 1991.
I was in the presidium of the party congresses along with him during the fourteenth party congress at Chennai and seventeenth party congress at Hyderabad. I greatly admired the outspoken and fair manner in which he conducted the proceedings and gave ample scope for various viewpoints to be advocated during the discussion.
He was the permanent chairperson during the meetings of the Central Committee. During the discussion in 1996 on the question of participation in the central government, he conducted the proceedings in the best democratic traditions of inner-party debate.
He was greatly interested in Tamilnadu as a non-Congress government was in power here, and he had had good relations with leaders of both the Dravidian parties, so that he could work out a joint approach on the question of state autonomy and more powers to the states.
He was very popular with various sections of people in Tamilnadu and helped the image of the party to grow here.