TNN, Jul 9, 2010, 12.38am IST
KOLKATA: Amidst the formal speeches and the unveiling of a portrait at the state assembly to mark Jyoti Basu's birth anniversary, the personal touch was added by Basu's self-confessed "political enemy" and personal friend, former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray.
The ailing Ray was unable to attend the ceremony at the assembly. Instead, he sent a letter to speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, saying "I must get ready to meet Jyoti soon with at least part of my kidney working". "I have so many memories of Jyoti. We were ferocious political enemies, particularly after the Chinese aggression in 1962, but outside the House, we were the best of friends. People would see us together, sitting next to each other watching cricket matches at the Eden Gardens, or at musical or dance programmes... Jyoti was a very lovable person and we were attached to each other very much, in spite of severe differences. I only hope that this spirit would remain forever in the House," Ray said.
Delivering the first Jyoti Basu memorial lecture, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee described the late CPM patriarch as a leader of utter simplicity and sincerity. Possibly indicating at the political situation of the state where the chief minister and leaders of the main opposition party Trinamool Congress are not on speaking terms, Chatterjee reminded that Basu had an excellent relationship with the other opposition leaders as well as those from the Left Front.
Before beginning his speech, Chatterjee hinted at his hope of seeing Basu's official residence Indira Bhavan being turned into a museum. "I went to his house this morning. The chair he used to sit in is still there. I don't know how long it will remain so. I hope the government will decide on this," he said.
In Chatterjee's speech, there was also a lesson for the beleagured CPM which has seen a steady erosion in its votebank, something that had pained the leader in his last days. "He constantly exhorted the party workers and the leaders not to lose touch with the people," Chatterjee said.
Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan, CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, PCC president Manas Bhunia and speaker Hashim Abdul Halim paid glowing tributes to Basu.