Two years after death, Jyoti Basu still CPI(M) mascot

Kolkata, Feb 19 (IANS): Even over two years after his death, Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu's appeal continues undiminished, at least in the party of which he was one of the founding fathers.

Holding its first state conference in West Bengal after losing power in what was for long its strongest base, the Communist Party of India(Marxist) Sunday fell back on the charisma of the late leader in its bid to regain its lost support among the masses.

Basu's life-size picture, alongside that of former party general secretary H.K.S. Surjeet, adorned the stage in the open session at the Brigade Parade ground, that brought the curtains down on the CPI(M)'s 23rd state conference.

Two prominent CPI(M) leaders began their speeches by remembering Basu and the role he played in consolidating the party in the state and also guiding it in national politics.

"This is the first (state) conference when comrade Jyoti Basu is not with us. During earlier conferences he used to give directions and guide us. We will always remember the path he has shown us and follow his guidance," party general secretary Prakash Karat told the rally at the sprawling ground, where the late leader had addressed big crowds dozens of times during his long political career.

Karat's comments drew loud applause from the lakhs of party supporters who shouted in unison 'comrade Jyoti Basu amar rahe'.

CPI(M) politburo member Mohammad Amin also remembered Basu.

"We miss him and will continue to miss him. He was a great leader and will continue to inspire us," said Amin.

One of the nine founding politburo members of CPI(M) formed in 1964, Basu was earlier elected as the state secretary of the undivided Communist Party of India during the 6th state conference in 1953.

Basu was the Chief Minister for a record 23 years, from 1977 until he retired in late 2000 due to ill health. He died January 17, 2010.

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