Denied entry, Left pays tribute to Basu at House gates

TNN, Jul 9, 2012, 04.29AM IST

KOLKATA: Two days after chief minister Mamata Banerjee prematurely celebrated former chief minister and CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu's birthday in the assembly, his comrades had to garland him outside its gates on the actual day of celebration.

The Left parties had planned to offer flowers to the painting of Basu in the assembly. Accordingly, around 15 leaders gathered at the assembly gates at 10.30 am on Sunday. After leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra arrived, they tried to enter the house. But the securitymen stopped them, saying only sitting MLAs would be allowed entry.
A heated exchange followed, with the securitymen pleading that they were "following instructions" of the Marshall. Among those who were not allowed in were former ministers Debes Das and Manab Mukherjee and former MLAs Rabin Deb, Rajdeo Goala and Sudhangshu Sil. Former speaker Hashim Abdul Halim was allowed in with the sitting MLAs.
When Mishra failed to convince the Marshall, he called Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay and pleaded with him. "I am requesting you to instruct the Marshall to let us in. As former MLAs, they have been given identity cards and enjoy the privilege of entering the house just like sitting members. I had taken verbal permission from you for this morning's programme that we had planned in memory of Jyoti Basu. Why should we submit a list of people entering the Assembly? They are all former MLAs," Mishra said on the phone.
But permission was not granted. The "insult" was obviously not taken kindly by the former MLAs and ministers who decided to register their protest against such "unconstitutional" behaviour by the ruling party. A framed photograph of Basu was brought from the 'Ganashakti' office, placed on a chair and the Left leaders offered their respects at the gate of the assembly house.
"This is absolutely shameful. We have been forced to offer flowers to Jyoti Basu on his birthday at the gates of the assembly. The speaker simply refused to listen to reason. The government celebrated Basu's birthday two days in advance and has now prevented us from offering our respects on the day itself. No one could imagine that things would come to such a humiliating pass," fumed Mishra.

Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay justified himself, saying Mishra had not submitted a formal application seeking permission for the programme. "We had asked for a list of names. Why could he not provide us with that?"
Former Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, however, was not impressed. "How can a speaker prevent former ministers and MLAs from entering the assembly? They bear identity cards that allow them this privilege," he said.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya, too, called the act "shameful". "They should have been allowed to go in and offer their respects. The ruling party has not behaved properly," he said.
Congress leader and Behrampore MP Adhir Chowdhury called it a "farce". "I won't be surprised if tomorrow they say that since Jyoti Basu is a former chief minister, we should take his painting out of the House!" was his snide remark.
On the other hand, state panchayat and PHE minister Subrata Mukherjee criticized Mishra for not taking prior permission. He explained that since the assembly is closed on Sundays, the state government had organized the programme to pay tribute to Basu on Friday at the behest of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. "CPM MLAs refused to participate in it. They just sat there and sipped tea," he complained.
"By paying their tribute outside the assembly, the Left leaders have dishonoured Basu," he said. "When Basu was alive, no CPM leader would go to Indira Bhavan with flowers to wish him on his birthday. It was only Subhas Chakraborty and his wife Ramala who celebrated it. The other CPM leaders would say that communists do not celebrate birth or death anniversaries," Mukherjee reminded.He claimed the Left leaders organized this event only to counter Friday's state-backed programme at the assembly.
"Former Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim is also well aware that prior permission of the speaker is needed to keep the assembly open on a holiday. Moreover, certain security measures have been installed decision for which was taken in an all-party meeting. So entry has been restricted now," Mukherjee said.
"It's just drama. If Mishra had any respect for Basu, he would have visited Indira Bhavan where the CPM patriarch stayed till his last days. But how could Mishra have got publicity had he not enacted the drama in front of the assembly gates," Mukherjee lashed out.
Meanwhile, CPM state secretary Biman Bose said that chief minister Mamata Banerjee, immediately after the government was formed, had said that the Assembly would be for the Opposition - a spirit that reflects democracy. "However, there is no reflection of that," Bose said, reacting to Sunday's incident. "Whatever happened today was shameful, and it is not clear which way the government is going."
He said birth anniversary celebrations could "begin" a few days ahead, but to observe the actual date of birth has always been the custom. "What are the students learning from all this? This is disrespectful", Bose said.

Mamata’s tribute to Basu comes two days too soon


The hindu, july 7, 2012

KOLKATA, July 6, 2012: Two days before the birth anniversary of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, an event organised here on Friday by West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay to observe the occasion in advance has created a controversy in political circles. 

Even as the Left Front MLAs did not attend the event, Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Surya Kanta Mishra said observing someone’s birth anniversary on any odd day is an act of disrespect to the person.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who paid floral tributes in front of the portrait of Mr. Basu in the Assembly premises, said the Left Front members did not attend the event for “political reasons”.

She said it was a “cruel joke of destiny” that those who were the political opponents of Mr. Basu — the Trinamool Congress and the Congress — paid tributes to the late leader while those who were with him chose to remain absent from the event.

But for one MLA, the Congress too did not participate at the function.

“For those who did not participate and are indulging in politics over Jyoti Babu’s name… I pray to God to forgive them,” she said.

Ms. Banerjee said the function could not be held on Sunday (the birth anniversary of Jyoti Basu) as the Assembly remains closed on the day.

Mr. Bandyopadhyay described the absence of the Opposition members from the event as “unfortunate” and said that as the MLAs had participated in the debate in the House they should have been present at the function.

The Speaker said he did not feel there had been any disrespect to the veteran Marxist leader.

Left Front members, however, have alleged that the decision to observe the Jyoti Basu’s birth anniversary in advance was taken with a view to score political points and observe the event before the Opposition organises one.

“The birth anniversary cannot be observed as per the convenience of the Chief Minister… We will observe the birth anniversary as per schedule on July 8 in the Assembly,” Dr. Mishra said.

A section of MLAs of the Congress (the ally of the Trinamool Congress-led government) too expressed their disapproval on the event being held in advance. Nepal Mahato, a senior Congress MLA said it was not proper to observe someone’s birthday in advance.

Any day good for birth of a brawl

The Telegraph, 30 June, 2012 

Calcutta, June 29: Even by the quirky standards of local politics, Bengal never ceases to surprise. Mamata Banerjee now has the chance to make the CPM skip an event held in honour of Jyoti Basu.

The chief minister today proposed to “observe Jyoti Basu’s birthday”, posing an almanac-bound dilemma for the CPM.

Basu’s birth anniversary (July 8) falls on a Sunday this year. If the chief minister follows her policy of marking such commemorative events on the nearest preceding working day if the anniversaries fall on a holiday, Basu’s party is reluctant to take part in it.

In keeping with the policy and the pledge, the chief minister today observed B.C. Roy’s birth anniversary in the Assembly, though the actual date is July 1 (Sunday), and the CPM skipped the programme as announced earlier.

Mamata’s logic for observing the anniversaries in advance is the non-availability of employees to keep the venue open on Sundays. But the CPM, much like a ritual-bound astrologer, feels such dates are etched in stone and have to be observed on the appointed day.

On the Basu birth anniversary, the chief minister merely said “we will observe Jyoti Basu’s birthday also” and has left it open-ended when the government will do so.

However, having made an issue out of the B.C. Roy event today, the CPM fears that Mamata would do an encore. “Jyoti Basu’s birthday is on July 8 and we will observe it on that day. If we can’t come here, there are other places,” said Surjya Kanta Mishra, leader of the Opposition.

Mishra displayed his knowledge of the works of R.D. Burman, whose birth anniversary too was celebrated two days ago by Mamata, to take a pot shot.

“It is not enough to remember Ruby Roy (an RD song about a man’s unrequited love). B.C. Roy too should be remembered. His birthday is observed as Doctors’ Day throughout the country. If a birthday can be observed on any day, what is the need for having a particular day as birthday?” Mishra asked.

The chief minister accused the CPM of playing politics. “The CPM is still practising the ‘us-and-them’ politics that they did when they were in power and is trying to politicise everything,” Mamata said.

In response to a question later, Mishra said: “We don’t mind MLAs and the Assembly staff turning up on a Sunday to pay tribute to Jyoti Basu. After all, he was a great man and it is a question of only one holiday in a year. Besides, it is not going to take up an entire day. It would be a short programme.”

Asked if the CPM was being ritualistic like a religious order, Mishra replied: “This is not about rituals or symbols. This is about a birthday.”

But the last laugh of the day belonged to Mamata, thanks to a CPM member who scored an own goal in the Assembly.

The CPM’s Sheikh Amjad Hussain asked Mamata: “Why are prices shooting up? Why is the rupee getting de-valued?”

Pat came Mamata’s reply: “Why don’t you ask your friend in Delhi why the prices are shooting up?”

No, the MLAs of the Congress, whose erstwhile finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature is being supported by the CPM, did not laugh. They sat in silence.

Indira Bhavan may house judicial panels

By Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN Jul 7, 2012, 03.31AM IST

KOLKATA: Indira Bhavan, where the former chief minister of the state Jyoti Basu lived for over two decades till his death in 2010, may soon house the judicial panels set up by the new government.

Named after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the building became a bone of contention between the two allies of the UPA — Congress and Trinamool — when CM Mamata Banerjeehad proposed to rename it as Nazrul Bhavan and set up a museum and research centre on the poet and revolutionary.

Having burnt her fingers on the original plan, the chief minister is now going cautious before finalizing any proposal related to the two-storey building. Earlier In May, Banerjee had laid to rest the controversy surrounding the renaming of Indira Bhavan, by announcing that her government would set up "Nazrul Tirtha" at Rajarhat on the northern fringes of the city and Indira Bhavan would be left alone for the time being.

It was named after Indira Gandhi as she had stayed there during an AICC conference in the 70s. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu started living there in the 80s after shifting out of his ancestral Hindustan Park house. The Left Front government had then passed a notification allowing Basu to stay there during his lifetime.

The Left Front had decided to set up a museum there and dedicate it to Basu, but failed to do so due to stiff resistance from the Trinamool Congress. Mamata, too, couldn't stick to her earlier decision of converting it to Nazrul Bhavan as the Pradesh Congress raised a hue and cry.

Senior Congress leaders claimed that her decision was a deliberate attempt to wipe out the memory of the former prime minister.

Insiders said the new proposal to house the judicial commissions is naturally being treated with care. The new government has set up various judicial panels after coming to power, but these autonomous bodies have not been able to function for want of office space. Officials at Writers' Buildings said that in a recent cabinet meeting, the chief minister had casually mentioned the plan before Congress minister Manas Bhuniya. "She asked him if the bungalow could be used as a guesthouse. Then she proposed that the spacious building could come handy at a time when the government is looking for space for the judicial commissions," said a minister on conditions of anonymity. Urban development minister Firhad Hakim has been asked to proceed with the proposal, since Indira Bhavan is under the urban development department.

Left boycotts Basu b'day celebrations at assembly

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu's 96th birthday was "officially" celebrated in the state assembly on Friday — two days ahead of his original birthday — with CM Mamata Banerjee leading TMC legislators and a lone Congress MLA to pay their respect to Bengal's longest serving chief minister and his own party colleagues staying away in protest. Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra has already informed the speaker that they would pay their tribute to Basu on July 8, opposing the "trend" to celebrate birthdays of eminent personalities ahead of schedule.