Governor's intervention sought on Jyoti Basu Nagar issue

IANS, Last Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013, 01:13  
Kolkata: Taking exception to West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee government's attempt to change the name of a township christened after former chief minister Jyoti Basu, left leaders and other eminent persons Friday urged sought the intervention of Governor MK Narayanan to redress their grievance.

"It goes without saying that the people as a whole, take exception to the attempt of changing the name of Jyoti Basu Nagar, by the West Bengal government," said a memorandum given to Narayanan by the Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary Celebration Committee.

The Trinamool Congress regime last month withdrew in the state assembly the New Town, Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011 passed by the erstwhile Left Front regime that had included a proposal to name the New Town area as JyotiBasuNagar.
Narayanan has already disapproved the dropping of the bill, while the Left has been demanding introduction of a new legislation restoring the name.

Hasim Abdul Halim, working president of the committee, claimed before journalists that the governor told the delegation that he has already communicated to the government that he was not in favor of changing the name.

"It is requested that being the constitutional head of the state, you would be kind enough to take up the issue appropriately and redress the natural grievance of the people that it generates," said the memorandum.

The delegation pointed out that the LF government had named New Town after Basu in recognition of his immense contribution in building the modern township.

HIDCO, a government agency which developed the township, took a resolution Aug 12, 2010 to name it after Basu, and referred the matter to the housing department which approved the proposal that was later okayed by the state cabinet.

The bill was then passed by the legislative assembly, but the governor referred it to the Trinamool government, which came to power in May 2011.

Basu holds the record for being the longest serving chief minister. The Marxist patriarch occupied the chair from 1977 to 2000, when he voluntarily stepped down due to old age. 

Rajiv Gandhi twice asked Jyoti Basu to become PM: Book

By Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN Nov 26, 2013, 03.48AM IST

KOLKATA: Rajiv Gandhi had wanted Jyoti Basu to become the Prime Minister and had pleaded with him twice during the politically tumultuous times of 1990 and 1991, former CBI director and Bengal DGP Arun Prosad Mukherjee has revealed in his autobiography.

The recently-released book — "Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu, Indrajit Gupta" — is based on Mukherjee's diary entries, maintained from the time he joined IPS in 1956, and his interactions with Rajiv, Basu and Gupta in various capacities as Darjeeling SP, Bengal DGP, state vigilance commissioner, CBI boss, special secretary in the home ministry, and finally, advisor to the home minister (Indrajit Gupta).

Mukherjee was special secretary, home ministry, in October 1990 when Rajiv informally asked him to arrange a meeting with Basu, says the book. The communist leader said it was not his call and only the party's central committee and Politburo could take such a decision. CPM vetoed it and Chandrashekhar — Rajiv's third choice — became PM with Congress support.

In 1991, when Chandrashekhar turned out to be a failure, Rajiv again approached Basu but he declined and referred the matter to his party leadership. Mukherjee writes that he took Rajiv's emissary for a meeting with senior CPM leaders at former MP Biplab Dasgupta's house. "But my worst conjecture proved right ... and thus ended the second opportunity of putting up the Left Front's best foot forward in the larger interest of Bengal."

Five years later, thanks to a hung Parliament, several local satraps, including Mulayam Singh Yadav, proposed Basu's name again for Prime Minister. And again the CPM central committee voted against it. In an interview at the end of 1996, Basu termed it a "historic blunder". "However, it is not generally known that such blunders had taken place twice in 1990-91... largely because of the unrealistic, short-sighted and 'blunder-proof' mindset of CPM leaders," writes the former DGP.

The CPM leadership has been taken aback by Mukherjee's revelation. Rajya Sabha MP Shyamal Chakraborty, who wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year for a commemorative postage stamp on Basu's centenary, told TOI on Monday: "I had no idea about this, so I can't comment on something I don't know of."

Former Lok Sabha Speaker and expelled CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee didn't know of it either. "It (not allowing Basu to become PM) was the weirdest example of democratic centralism. I respectfully agree with Jyoti-babu's 'historic blunder' comment. I wish the blunder hadn't been committed and history would have been written differently. Look what's happened to the party now — it's become politically irrelevant."

Chatterjee agreed with Mukherjee's remark in his book that the country's "murky political and administrative ethos" then would have been transformed with Basu at the helm.

Speaking to TOI, the 82-year-old Mukherjee said: "All three (Gandhi, Basu and Gupta) were different personalities. Jyoti Basu was firm, Rajiv was extremely courteous while Indrajit Gupta was a straight-talker. But they trusted me and allowed me to speak my mind. They knew about my integrity."

About the "blunder" he said, "The CPM leadership refused to see reason and there was no way one could convince them." His writing is more explicit: "All the implications and finer points made out by me in favour of Jyoti Basu accepting Rajiv Gandhi's offer of prime ministership though presumably for a short period of 8-12 months went over the heads of Left Front leaders — thanks to their blinkered vision."

What happened

* 1990: Basu tops Rajiv list of 3 prospective PMs but CPM says no. Chandrashekar, the last name on Rajiv's list, after Devi Lal, becomes PM.

* 1991: Chandrashekar flops. Rajiv again requests Basu. Mukherjee says he will arrange a meet if Rajiv ensures Basu is PM for at least a year. Rajiv agrees. Basu says party must decide. CPM again says no.

* 1996: After the fall of 13-day-old Vajpayee govt, United Front asks Basu to be PM. Yet again, CPM says no.

Protest in Bengal assembly over change in question

Kolkata: Nov 27 (IANS) - Protests marked the West Bengal assembly after Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra's question on naming a township Jyoti Basu Nagar was "arbitrarily changed".

The trouble started after the day's proceedings began with the question hour. Mishra complained to speaker Biman Banerjee the format of the query which he had submitted earlier had been "arbitrarily changed". The speaker allowed Mishra to read the question in the format he had submitted, and Minister for Urban Development Firhad Hakim replied, but the opposition was far from satisfied. Left Front members held noisy protests.

Mishra accused Hakim of misleading the house on the status of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011, passed during the erstwhile Left Front regime rechristening New Town Kolkata as Jyoti Basu Nagar. Mishra claimed Hakim had spoken a lie by saying Governor M.K. Narayanan returned the bill without giving his assent.

On the contrary, Narayanan told Left Front MLAs Tuesday he was unaware of it. The Left Front members tore papers, displayed posters against the government move to withdraw a legislation naming New Town Kolkata as Jyoti Basu Nagar, and walked into the well of the house, raising slogans. The speaker continued the business of the house, but nothing could be heard in the pandemonium, as Left Front lawmakers refused to heed Banerjee's repeated requests to return to their seats.

The Front lawmakers boycotted the house proceedings after recess, and staged a mock assembly and sit-in demonstration in the assembly premises. The treasury benches passed a resolution in the second half of the day condemning the behaviour of Mishra and other Front members. "The house strongly condemns the uncivil behaviour, distasteful comments, and the efforts of the Left Front members to prevent the speaker and the house proceedings from functioning," it said.

Later, Mishra told reporters it was a rare instance of a question put forth by a member being "distorted". "The state government is encouraging manipulation of questions (unfair means in examination) in schools and colleges and now it has brought it to the assembly," he said. Mishra said the withdrawal of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011, and its replacement by a fresh legislation that had no clause naming the township as "Jyoti Basu Nagar" was the state government's gift on the birth centenary of the late communist patriarch - who was state chief minister for 23 years - a national record.

Countering Mishra, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee accused the opposition, "particularly CPI-M", of creating disorder in the assembly. Chatterjee contended it was the right of the assembly secretariat to edit questions if they were too long. "This used to happen during my days as the leader of the opposition also.

The speaker, sticking to highest norms of parliamentary behaviour, allowed Mishra to speak, but he responded by tearing apart the question". "Everything was done in a planned and motivated manner, led by Mishra. This cannot continue. We want good debates in the assembly where everybody should participate," he said.