Jyoti Basu: An energizing Communist

By V. S. Achyuthanandan

I am having the fortune to cherish the fond memories of Com. Jyoti Basu that spread over half a century. Being  members of the Polit Bureau  and Central Committee of the CPI(M), we had been able to work together during different occasions on various issues. Jyoti Basu was a clear-cut example of a communist leader. How a communist should behave in life as well as in struggles is evident in the personality of Com. Jyoti Basu. When he was in ill bed I visited him at his residence and in hospital more than once. On that occasions, irrespective of his ill health, we have exchanged and recollected our old memories for a long time. That was also last memorable movements in our friendship. One of those occasions, I proudly recollect, he told me that “you are a good fighter and  still  you have enough strength & courage  to continue the fight  for people’s cause.” 

We all know he was born and brought up in an affluent family.  And he could attain the higher  education from London.   So, he could have led a comfortable life. But, it is discarding all these fortunes that he became a staunch fighter of the working class movement in the country.

It’s a fact that his life at London helped him have association with  Prof. Harold Lasky and many other  left thinkers,  later on paved way for him to  have close connection with the  anti-fascist & working class movements. When Basu returned home, the fire he got from the anti- imperialist & fascist movement in London helped him plunge into the turbulent turmoil’s  of  freedom struggle.  As a communist leader, he was always  with the toiling masses. The  problem they faced, he took them as his own. For their cause, he was ready to take  any risk. And gradually he grew up to the stature of a great leader. Struggles, under-ground life, arrests, conviction – all these were part and parcel of his life, exactly in tune with the life of a true communist.

His life was, in its full sense, committed to the people and the nation. So, personal sorrows never annoyed him. At the time of the death his father, Basu was in Dum Dum Central jail. So he could not have a look at his father before he breathed his last.  But the communist in Basu was strong enough to bear all these heart-renting moments.

It was in 1958 that I came to have personal association with Com. Basu when I became the national council member  of the undivided Communist Party of India. During that time great are the memories we experienced together in fighting relentlessly against revisionism  in the party. It was the leadership quality  of Com. Basu that  succeeded in keeping the comrades in West Bengal in tune with the parties correct line.

Ultimately in 1964, 32 comrades staged a walk-out permanently from the national council  of CPI and later on CPI(M) was formed. And  Com. Basu was one among those 32 comrades. At present, myself is the only one among those 32 comrades  who is alive today.

In the Vijayawada Congress in 1961, we fought strongly inside the party against the rightist deviations under Dange. At that time Jyothi Basu was well in the fore-front of this struggle along with Comrades Basava Punnaiah and  P Sundarayiah. And Jyoti Basu had alone done a marvelous job in making meticulous arrangements for the first organizational conference which marked the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964 in Kolkota. 

The Bengal People are greatly indebted  to Com. Jyoti Basu for establishing a left-front government in West Bengal  emancipating the state from the tyrannical Congress rule led by late  Sidhartha Sanker Ray. In this fight, he remained on a par with Comrades Pramod Das Gupta, Saroj Mukharjee and Binoy Chowdhari etc.

After this, under his agile leadership he could lead Bengal to prosperity for a period of three decades. He could establish novel models in Bengal by effecting land-reforms and decentralization of power. Under his leadership, Bengal could attain the highest  rate of agricultural growth in the country. It was his association with the peasant movement in Bengal that helped him take these progressive measures in agricultural sector. But unfortunately before establishing cent percent rights for the tenancy of the peasants and agricultural workers over land, he had to move away from power. But even then, the laws promulgated by the Basu government remain to be a land-mark in the history not only of West Bengal, but the entire nation .

Basu’s fond memories are also relevant  in the fact that he had been successful in containing and saving the state during the days of communal struggles. It was well seen during the time of the demolition of Babari Masjid.

At one occasion, there was a call from different corners that Basu should be made the Prime Minister of India. Even though it was not realized, it was a great recognition and honour for the personality of Basu and the CPI(M).

In short, Com. Jyoti Basu was a hard-core communist, a relentless fighter for the cause of the down-trodden and the working class, an able administrator, a far-sighted leader, a staunch secularist  and what not.

At this juncture, when the country is on the brim of a collapse in the hands of the BJP-led communal and divisive forces, the great memories  of Com. Jyoti Basu would be an energizing force for all the secular  and democratic sections to fight against these communal forces.  


Bengal celebrates Jyoti Basu's birth centenary

IANS, Tuesday, July 08, 2014, 22:57

Kolkata: West Bengal Tuesday celebrated the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu - one of the most revered Indian politicians and the state's former chief minister - with blood donation camps, seminars and cultural programmes.

The Marxist patriarch, who holds the record in post-independence India for the longest chief ministerial tenure and narrowly missed becoming the country's prime minister, is credited with having successfully made centre-state relations a major debating point in the late 1970s and 1980s and emerging as a central figure in anti-Congress political space at the national level.

In the morning, Basu's portrait was garlanded in the assembly by Speaker Biman Banerjee and Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), of which Basu was a founding member, organised programmes across the state to celebrate the occasion.

Basu's photos were garlanded outside CPI-M offices and those of its various mass organisations in the city and the districts. The party organised blood donation camps, discussions and seminars, highlighting his life and contribution and dwelling on the present political scenario in the country and the state.

The central function was held at the sprawling Nazrul Mancha where Left Front leaders stressed on Left unity and reflected on the errors committed during recent elections.

CPI-M state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said Basu's life was a shining example for young comrades in abiding by party discipline.

Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar questioned the call given for an anti-Congress and anti-Bharatiya Janata Party alternative during the recent elections in the absence of any solid understanding among Left parties.

"Had Jyoti Babu been there, such a slogan would have not come out," he said.

All India Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh expressed concern for the Left parties suffering a serious loss of their mass base.

"When we address these issues we can pay the real tribute to Jyoti Basu," said Ghosh.

Basu had stewarded the state's Left front government as chief minister from 1977 to 2000, that earned him accolades from both within the country and abroad for his skills in running a coalition successfully in a multi-party democratic set-up.

Basu's close aide Sarit Bandyopdhyay Asaid he was a "multifaceted personality" with a razor-sharp memory and had a open mind on all matters. He also followed sports.

Refering to the turn of events in 1996 when the CPI-M prevented Basu from becoming prime minister at the head of the United Front government, Bose said that Basu accepted the party decision like a "true communist". However, later Basu had dubbed the decision a "historic blunder".

Basu's successor as chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Basu had placed the struggle of peasants and working classes at the centre of politics.

"The fight for land was carried forward by providing pattas (land titles) to landless farmers. The rights of sharecropeprs was also protected," he said.

The CPI-M politburo minister also recalled how the "secular" Basu ensured that Bengal remained free from communal strife in 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Economist Prabhat Patanik also addressed the programme.

Born July 8, 1914, Basu joined the CPI in 1940 and began his work in the railway trade union movement. In 1946, he was elected to the Bengal legislative assembly from the Railway constituency.

He played a key role in the development of the CPI in India and was the secretary of its provincial committee from 1954 to 1960. He became a member of the central committee of the CPI in 1951. When the CPI-M was formed in 1964, he became one of the founder politburo and central committee members.

He passed away Jan 17, 2010. His body was handed over to the SSKM hospital in deference to his wish that it be donated for medical research after his death. His eyes were used to give vision to a till-then blind person.

Jyoti Basu birth centenary tomorrow

THE HINDU, KOLKATA, July 7, 2014

Kolkata: Not only leaders of the Left parties but academicians and members of the intelligentsia will be present at the birth centenary celebrations of former West Bengal Chief Minister and veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, chairperson of the State Left Front Committee Biman Basu said here on Sunday. The event will be organised at Nazrul Mancha, a city auditorium, on Tuesday.

Mr. Basu said, “Apart from Left leaders, the event will be attended by eminent economist Prabhat Patnaik, who will be the main speaker. Well-known novelist Nabaneeta Dev Sen will also address the gathering.” Mr. Basu said that the event would also be attended by veteran politician Kashikanta Maitra, who worked with Jyoti Basu. A booklet on the life and ideals of Jyoti Basu will be released.

It will comprise Jyoti Basu’s speech at the Nehru Memorial Lecture in Delhi. Besides, there will be cultural programmes such as song, dance, and recitation of poetry.

A select audio-visual clippings of Jyoti Basu’s speech will also be played.

Mr. Basu, who had been the longest serving Chief Minister of any State, passed way on January 17, 2010. He was the Chief Minister of West Bengal for 23 years from 1977 to 2000.