Use power to bring welfare, not to dominate people: Somnath Chatterjee

TRIBUTE: Schoolchildren place near a statue of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu during a function to mark his 96th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Thursday. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish.

By Indrani Dutta

THE HINDU, KOLKATA, July 9, 2010

Power has to be used to help bring about people's welfare and not as a means to dominate them. One cannot afford to ignore the feelings and perceptions of the common man.

These oft-repeated words of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu were recalled by Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker, at a meeting here on on the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of the former West Bengal Chief Minister.

Delivering the first Jyoti Basu Memorial Lecture, Mr. Chatterjee said that as Mr. Basu always emphasised, “only in the hands of a united and eternally vigilant citizenry and a leadership committed to the cause of the people will democracy be safe.”

The lecture, organised by the West Bengal Forum for Parliamentary Studies, was held on a lawn in the Assembly where Basu sat for many decades, either on the treasury benches or in the opposition.

The former Chief Minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, one of Basu's friends, sent a letter saying that although his kidney ailments bound him down, he hoped that Mr. Basu's spirit lived on in the House.

Invoking the name of the leader again and again in his speech, Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu always believed that “it is man and man alone who creates history,” and “despite many crests and thrusts, the people will finally emerge victorious and gain freedom in a classless society, free from exploitation of any form.”

Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu had tremendous capacity to assess the significance of developing situations, political or otherwise, and could quickly react to them most aptly.

“He set an outstanding example of how to run a coalition government in harmony, and with understanding among the partners,” Mr. Chatterjee added.

The implementation of land reforms and devolution of power of governance to the grass-root level were among Mr. Basu's greatest achievements, but with his pragmatism, he also ushered in the 1994 Industrial Policy of the State government, Mr. Chatterjee said.

Striking a poignant note during his brief speech, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said it was a painful moment for him to talk about a man whose association had been an asset in his life.

“Mr. Basu was imprisoned without trial, but he never meted out that treatment to anyone. Rather, he pioneered the setting up of a State-level Human Rights Commission. He held aloft secular ideals, and the image and stature that has got inextricably linked with him is one that does the State proud,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

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