Masks, cutouts, speech…Jyoti Basu everywhere at Left rally

KOLKATA,7th February, 2010: Three weeks after his death, Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu remains the Left’s most beloved poster boy in West Bengal. In the form of masks, giant cutouts and banners, his face sprung up at a rally here Sunday organised by the state’s ruling Left Front constituents.

Thousands of people were seen wearing Basu masks at the Brigade Parade ground rally to protest rising food prices and political violence. The legendary Communist leader’s photo was also used in party leaflets urging people to strengthen the Left movement across the country. His posters were garlanded with jasmine.

A poster of Basu carrying his oft-repeated criticism about newspaper reports was also seen at the venue. “When market-driven dailies criticise us, it is an indication that we are on the right track,” the poster read.

It was the first Left Front rally at the Brigade Parade ground after the death of the Communist patriarch Jan 17, but many Left leaders peppered their speeches with Basu’s popular sayings and encouraged supporters to consolidate the working class’ struggle across the state.

The previous Brigade rally organised by the Left Front had been held almost a year ago - Feb 8, 2009. An ailing Basu could not attend it, but he had sent a message for party workers, which was read out by Left Front chairman Biman Bose.

“We remember that Basu used to say if ever the situation gets tough, keep your head cool and go ahead with millions of poor people. You will find that the problem will be solved automatically,” senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and party’s politburo member Md. Amin told the gathering Sunday.

“He also taught us not to lose temper and reach out to the masses, as many as we can,” he said. Taking a queue from Basu’s political theories, Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar said: “He (Basu) also told us to reach out to people and fight for their interests. Now we have to follow that path which he had shown to all of us.”

A minute’s silence was also observed in memory of the pragmatic Communist icon and his recorded speech brought the rally to an end. In fact, the taped speech was supposed to be played at the start, but a mechanical snag played spoilsport.

As the crowd started petering out after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s address, Biman Bose announced that Basu’s speech would be blared through the public address system before the meeting ended. That stopped the exodus. The gathering welcomed the announcement with a huge round of applause.

“We Communists work till our last breath for the people,” the speech said, triggering another wave of applause.

Basu holds the record as the longest serving chief minister of India, after being at the helm of affairs in West Bengal from 1977 to 2000. He almost became India’s prime minister in 1996, but was held back by his party, CPI(M).

Basu died at the age of 95 at a private nursing home here following pneumonia.

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