Friday, July 12, 2013

Social media users pledges allegiance to Jyoti Basu's politics

IANS; Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 12:55 [IST]

Kolkata, July 9: Hundreds of social media loyalists of Jyoti Basu renewed their allegiance to the late Marxist patriarch's ideologies Monday - the launch of the former West Bengal chief minister's centenary celebrations.

Legions of loyalists paid tribute to their celebrated "Comrade" through comments and poems on the social networking site Facebook.

Pledging support to Basu's philosophy, many dubbed the "leader of masses" as an inspiration.

A post said: "Aj amader priyo jononeta Comrade Jyoti Basu er Jonmo Sotoborsho....Tumi aj o acho amader majhe Onuprerona hoye...Tomar dekhano poth e amra chilam, achi & thakbo ei sopoth nilam...(Today is our beloved people's leader's birth live among us an inspiration..we are and always will be on the path that you have shown us..)".

Some vowed to undo the "deviation from the ideologies of Comrade".

"Comrade Jyoti Basu'r jonmosotobarshiki upolokkhe 1ti bishoye protiggabodho hoya khub joruri,,seta holo adorso-goto jetuku bicchuti hoyeche, setak sudre naoya..setai hobe COMRADE sothik sroddha janano (On the centenary celebrations of Comrade Jyoti Basu we have to pledge our return to the ideologies of Basu.. from which we have deviated..that will be the true way to to pay respect to him)".

The Communist Party of India-Marxist has lined up year-long programmes throughout the state, highlighting his life and philosophy to mark the centenary celebrations.

Born July 8, 1914, Basu joined the Communist Party of India 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 communist party in India and was the secretary of the CPI's provincial committee from 1954 to 1960. He became a member of its central committee of in 1951. When the CPI-M was formed, he became one of the founder politburo and central committee members. 

Calls for Defending Democracy

Jyoti Basu’s Centenary Observance

Kolkata, 8th July:  THE birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu began on July 8 with a call to defend the ideology he represented and tirelessly worked for.

The CPI(M) state committee organised a public meeting in Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata which was addressed by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) Biman Basu, state secretary and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M). Leaders of the Left Front and other Left parties were present in the meeting. Thousands of people gathered to attend and had to listen to speakers standing outside on the road.

Speakers recalled the contributions of Jyoti Basu in the Left movement and in Indian politics.

The question of democracy, for which Jyoti Basu fought a long battle, came to the forefront.  Prakash Karat said, ‘’West Bengal blazed a new trail in democratic decentralisation under the leadership of Basu through panchayati raj which was institutionalised much before the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution. The spirit of democracy and the great experiment of democratic decentralisation which developed and flourished under Basu is now under severe and vicious attack.  We are in the midst of a panchayat election that was sought to be scuttled and sabotaged by the powers that today are ruling West Bengal. The people, the Left Front and the democratic forces in the state will defend the legacy of Basu, who made the greatest contribution to the deepening of democracy in the country. They will fight back all these anti-democratic onslaughts that have been launched over the past two years in the state.”

“If you look back at the career of Basu, there is no other leader, irrespective of political party who has shown such a capacity, vision and determination to show that India remains and will be a democratic, federal and secular country,” Karat pointed out.

Describing Basu as a leader who knew how to work in parliamentary arena, Karat said he showed how a Communist Party should integrate work in the parliamentary forum with the movement outside.

“The birth centenary of Basu should not be just an occasion for us to commemorate and pay tribute to his glorious life,” he said. It would be more meaningful to utilise the year-long observance of the leader’s birth centenary to spread the ideas he stood for, Karat suggested.

 “Whether it is a question of defence of democracy, defence of secularism or defence of working people, all contributing to a social transformation that will make India a more equitable and just society, this is what Basu stood for,” Karat said.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee recalled the early life of Jyoti Basu and said that after returning from abroad, he decided that the path of India’s liberation lied in liberation of the working class. Basu joined in the working class movement and worked among the dock and railway workers. Throughout his life, the ideology of working class was his ideological commitment.

Bhattacharjee said, Jyoti Basu brought the question of workers and peasants to the centrestage even within the legislature. His speeches within state assembly in support of peasants’ and workers’ struggles were historic.

Bhattacharjee recalled how steadfastly Basu defended secularism and thwarted any attempts by communal forces when the Left Front government was in office. He said, ‘’We are faced with a new danger again. On the one hand, it is Congress with neoliberal policies and on the other hand, BJP with neoliberal policies plus Narendra Modi”.  He added, the doors of this state have been opened to the BJP and Modi. This is frightening.

Bhattacharjee pointed out that the panchayats, which empowered the poor are under serious threat. He called upon the people and the Left activists to work hard to keep the panchayats in the hands of the poor.

Biman Basu, presiding over the meeting, outlined the struggling life of Jyoti Basu and how he built working class organisations despite heavy odds. He also reflected upon Jyoti Basu’s contribution to the cause of federalism in the country. It was Jyoti Basu who raised the demand of more powers to the states and brought the agenda to the centrestage of Indian politics.

CPI(M)  also announced a year-long programme on the occasion of the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu. ''A wider programme cannot be chalked out initially as panchayat election is round the corner and also considering the fact that people will be busy in campaigns and polls,'' Biman Basu said. He said the Party would project the life and activities of Jyoti Basu through seminars, posters, documentaries and an effort for political education.

On July 8, red flags were hoisted in all parts of the state. In some districts, processions with Jyoti Basu’s portrait were organised. In many areas, blood donation camps were organised.

Respects were showered on Jyoti Basu in state assembly too. Leaders of different political parties paid rich tributes to Basu, particularly recalling his democratic way of functioning both as the opposition leader and chief minister and how he used to treat criticisms respectfully.

But the longest serving chief minister's centenary celebrations were surprisingly missing from the Writers' Buildings, where the present government has been observing birth anniversaries of luminaries throughout the year.

People's Democracy,

July 14, 2013

Jyoti Basu’s Centenary Observed at A K G Bhavan

New Delhi: Comrade Jyoti Basu’s birth centenary was observed at the Party headquarters, A K G Bhawan in New Delhi on July 8. Polit Bureau members, S Ramachandran Pillai, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat addressed the meeting. K Varadarajan, Polit Bureau member was present on the dais. A large number of members from the Central Committee units and from the Delhi unit of the Party attended the meeting.

People's Democracy,

July 14, 2013

CITU Observes Comrade Jyoti Basu’s Birth Centenary

New Delhi: AS part of the decision of its 14th All India Conference to celebrate the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions has organised programmes in different parts of the country on July 8. A K Padmanabhan, president of the CITU inaugurated the year-long celebration of the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu at the CITU headquarters, BTR Bhawan in New Delhi on July 8. The CITU has planned year-long programmes at various levels all over the country to celebrate the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu, from July 8, 2013 to July 8, 2014.

After offering floral tributes to the great revolutionary leader, a meeting was held at the CITU centre. In his speech, A K Padmanabhan said Comrade Jyoti Basu started his trade union activities in the 1940’s, mobilising the railway workers. He made a remarkable contribution to the Indian trade union movement. He was a teacher, orator, ruler, trade union leader, internationally known communist leader from India, and was the longest serving chief minister in the country. Jibon Roy, ex-MP and general secretary of the All India Coal Workers Federation also addressed the meeting. S Dev Roye, A R Sindhu, national secretaries of the CITU and Ranjana Nirula, treasurer, CITU attended the programme.

People's Democracy,
July 14, 2013 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Democracy under vicious attack in Bengal, says Karat

KOLKATA: The spirit of democracy and the great experiment of democratic decentralisation through the panchayati raj system is “under a severe and vicious attack” in West Bengal, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat said here on Monday.
“We are in the midst of a panchayat election, an election that was sought to be scuttled and sabotaged by the powers that today are ruling West Bengal,” he said at a memorial meeting to mark the launch of the birth centenary celebrations of the former Chief Minister and veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu.
The people, the Left Front and all the democratic forces in the State will defend the legacy of Basu, who made the “greatest contribution to the deepening of democracy in the country… They will fight back all these anti-democratic onslaughts that have been launched over the past two years in the State,” Mr. Karat said.
West Bengal blazed a new trail in democratic decentralisation under the leadership of Basu through a panchayati raj syststem institutionalised much before the 73 and 74 amendments of the Constitution, he said.
“If you look back at the career of Basu, there is no other leader… irrespective of political party who has shown such a capacity, vision and determination to show that Indian remains and will be a democratic, federal and secular country,” he pointed out.
Describing Basu as a leader who knew how to work in Parliamentary fora, Mr. Karat said he showed how a Communist Party should integrate work in the Parliamentary forum with the rest of the country.
“The birth centenary of Basu should not be just an occasion for us to commemorate and pay tribute to his glorious life,” he said. It would be more meaningful to utilise year-long observance of the leader’s birth centenary to spread the ideas he stood for, he suggested.

Prakash Karat pays homage to the former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu 

on his birth centenary anniversary in Kolkata on Monday.
“Whether it is a question of defence of democracy, defence of secularism, defence of working people all contributing to a social transformation that will make India a more equitable and just society, this is what comrade Basu stood for,” Mr. Karat said.
He added that there would be a centenary campaign by the party to spread the leader’s message to the people.

West Bengal pays tribute to its longest-serving CM Jyoti Basu on his birth centenary

The West Bengal Assembly on Monday paid glowing tributes to Jyoti Basu, who was the longest-serving chief minister of the country, on the occasion of his birth centenary.

Paying his tribute, Speaker of the Assembly Biman Bandopadhyay said that Basu was a truly national leader with a great personality.

Basu actually elevated the CPI(M) to the national level, for which he was asked to occupy the chair of Prime Minister in 1996, but he had refused for the sake of maintaining party discipline, Bandopadyay said.

The former Lok Sabha speaker and a long-time colleague of late Basu, Somnath Chatterjee, said that he used to speak in the language of the common people.

"Today his absence is felt very much. Basu used to say that politics is the best method for serving people and our Assembly and Parliament are meant for the people. let us take the pledge to serve people. Basu always used to raise people's problems in the House," Chatterjee said.

He also noted that Basu could easily align himself with the masses and displayed an aura of great personality. He was not rigid and adapted himself to the changing times.

Among those who garlanded the portrait of Basu were former West Bengal speaker Hasim Abdul Halim, Leader of the Opposition Surya Kant Mishra, Deputy Leader of the House Partha Chatterjee and members of the Assembly.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


A Glorious Life and Example

By Prakash Karat

THE birth centenary of an outstanding Communist leader like Jyoti Basu should be an occasion to make an appraisal of the significant contributions made through the life and work of the leader and to draw up a balance sheet of the lessons and achievements of his political career.  It must then be used to educate the new generation of Communists and progressives, so that it helps them in their ongoing endeavour for a social transformation.

Jyoti Basu became a legend as a Communist leader  in his life time. No other leader of the Communist movement was known and respected by the people all over the country as much as Jyoti Basu. How did this come about?

Jyoti Basu’s name was synonymous with all the major currents of Left politics and the basic class movements.  Throughout his life as a Communist, he was associated with the working class movement.  After he came back from Britain, he joined the Communist Party and straight away began work in the railway workers trade union. Till his last years, he remained a leader of the CITU.

He became a symbol of the peasant movement when he utilised the United Front government of 1967-70 to unleash the land struggles and when he, as chief minister of the Left Front government, undertook the extreme land reform measures.  So his political activity involved both the  worker and peasant movements.

One of the distinctive contributions of Jyoti Basu was the way he integrated work  in the legislature with the people's movements  and workers struggles outside.  Jyoti Basu was elected to the Bengal legislature from a railway constituency in 1946 before independence.  From then onwards, for more than five decades, he effectively utilised his presence in the legislature for developing and strengthening the Party's influence and movements outside. When the Tebhaga movement of the peasantry began in 1947, Jyoti Basu extensively toured the districts where the movement was taking place for a first hand report and raised the issue effectively in the assembly.

In 1953, he became the secretary of the Provincial Committee of the CPI and continued in this post till 1961.  During these eight years, big movements took place such as the food movement of 1959 in which 80 people were killed in police firing and lathicharges.  Jyoti Basu, as secretary of the Party, was in the forefront of this movement while relentlessly raising the demands of the people on food inside the assembly.

Earlier, when the school teachers' strike took place in February 1954, many leaders of the school teachers association and the Party were arrested.  There was a warrant for the arrest of Jyoti Basu and the police kept a vigil outside the assembly on the opening day of the session to arrest him.  Jyoti Basu managed to enter the assembly and stayed for around a week inside the premises  where the police could not  enter.  He was able to raise the issue of the teachers strike inside the assembly and came out to attend the teachers rally and got arrested.  Here was a striking example of how Jyoti Basu, as a legislator, utilised the assembly to champion the cause of the working people.

Jyoti Basu was a man of great personal courage.  In July 1969, when he was the home minister, a mob of policeman invaded the assembly building, having been instigated to do so after a policeman was killed in a clash.  They smashed up furniture inside the assembly and entered Jyoti Basu's room. Jyoti Basu calmly faced the rampaging policemen and firmly told them to stop such behaviour.  Taken aback by his composure,  the policemen quietly left his room.

It was Jyoti Basu who showed how Communist participation in the state government should be utilised to strengthen the democratic movement.  During the two stints of the United Front government between 1967-1970, as the home minister, he did not allow the police to intervene in the struggles of the workers and the peasants.  During the land struggle which swept West Bengal, Jyoti Basu declared that  the government would not obstruct the peasants who were identifying the benami lands and taking them over. It is this experience which helped the CPI(M) to formulate its approach and tactics while working in the state governments.

The biggest contribution of Jyoti Basu came with the formation of the Left Front government in 1977, of which he became the chief minister.  The remarkable record of the Left Front government for over three decades owes a lot to  Jyoti Basu's leadership  of the government for an unbroken 23 years. It was under his stewardship that the road map for land reforms was chalked out and implemented.  These path-breaking reforms led to 1.1 million acres of land being  distributed to 2.5 million landless and marginal farmers and 1.53 million bargadars (sharecroppers) being registered and provided  security of tenure.

Side by side with the land reforms, the three-tier panchayat system revitalised by decentralisation of powers was instituted.  Much before the 73rd  and 74th  constitutional amendments, West Bengal showed the way in democratising the panchayat system.

An achievement which is taken for granted today is the establishment of a secular atmosphere in the state.  Bengal, before independence, witnessed the rise of communal politics and partition saw large-scale communal violence. But the advance of the Left movement and the establishment of the Left Front government laid the basis for a major transformation.  Jyoti Basu symbolised the firm adherence to secularism not only in West Bengal but the entire country.  All minorities felt protected and lived free from communal attacks.  The whole country praised the firm stand of Jyoti Basu which prevented any attack on the Sikh minority in West Bengal after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Semi-fascist terror was unleashed in West Bengal during the 1970s. More than 1200 comrades were killed during this period and thousands were forced to leave their homes.  Repression by the class enemies have to be faced by the Communist movement at various times. How successfully such repression and violence is faced determines the future of the movement.  Under the leadership of Jyoti Basu and Promode Dasgupta, the Party withstood this severe attack and did not get isolated from the people.  Today, when the Party and the Left Front is again facing severe attacks in West Bengal, the example of Jyoti Basu’s mature leadership at such a juncture should be a guiding light.

For seven decades, Jyoti Basu as a Communist saw various ups and downs in the international Communist movement.  But his commitment to Marxism never wavered.  Till the end he believed that socialism is the only alternative for humanity.

In the practice and development of the Communist movement in India, Jyoti Basu played a key role in many aspects. On how Communists should work  in legislatures; in implementing land reforms; in decentralising power through the panchayati raj system; in defending secularism and democracy.  Few leaders in independent India can claim to have  contributed to defending the rights of the working people,  deepening democracy and strengthening the secular principle as much as Jyoti Basu has done.

The year long birth centenary celebrations should commemorate this glorious life and work. 

Lal Salam Comrade Jyoti Basu

By Sitaram Yechury

July 8, 2013 marks the beginning of the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu. 

Even though all of us are aware of the inviolable law of Nature that once life is born, it has to cease to exist one day, this remains, universally, the most difficult inevitability to come to terms with.  Comrade Jyoti Basu’s absence, particularly in today’s circumstances, is felt in every turn and twist. Yet, in his absence, it is incumbent on our part to carry forward his legacy to advance the objective for which he contributed all his life – the establishment of socialism in India and eventually in the world. 

The Legacy

Jyoti Basu’s seven decade long political life is synchronous with the evolution of modern India.  For this very reason, he was always a source of inspiration  and a `role model’ for the younger generation.  His legacy will continue to be such a source.  He, truly, was one of the legends of modern India, not only of the Communist movement. 

Having gone to England to return as a Bar-at-Law, he was attracted to the Communist worldview, embraced the ideology and returned to India in 1940 not to don the black robes but to plunge directly into the freedom struggle by joining the Communist Party.   Karl Marx had once said that when an idea grips the minds of the masses, it becomes a material force.  The desire for independence from British rule had gripped the Indian masses when Jyoti Basu joined the Communist movement.    He, however, was thinking ahead of what should be the character and content of independent India.  The political independence that would be achieved needed to be  converted into the true economic independence of every Indian.  This meant the creation of a socialist society where exploitation of man by man simply ceases to exist.  It is with this passion that remained undiluted till the end that he served the  Indian people.  During the course of his long and illustrious life, he had to face many trials and tribulations but the commitment to the cause, however, never wavered.  He is a `role model’ precisely for this reason: sheer power of his commitment to his convictions.

Modern India, post independence, was evolving through major struggles that led eventually to the integration of the feudal princely States into the Indian Union.  The struggles led by the Communists brought to the fore the agenda of land reforms and the abolition of feudal zamindari and other land tenure systems.  This was also the period when the various linguistic nationalities in India who had united in the struggle for freedom, were seeking their distinct identity.  A process that finally led to the linguistic reorganisation of the Indian States in 1956. 

Jyoti Basu's political evolution converged  with the evolution of modern India based irrevocably on the premise that the recognition and celebration of India's diversity can only be on the basis of its secular democratic foundations.  

Jyoti Basu's firm commitment to our country's secular democratic character and administrative structures  remained a constant feature of his work and activities.  As communal forces represent the very antithesis of this evolution of modern India, Jyoti Basu worked to isolate and defeat the communal forces and strengthen the secular polity. 

Simultaneously, his entire concentration was on  carrying forward the struggle to convert India's political independence into economic independence for its people – socialism.  Within the Indian Communist movement, however, a very intense ideological battle erupted on how this was to be achieved.  Steering clear and battling against both the  right and left deviations, Jyoti Basu, alongwith his other comrades who eventually formed the CPI(M), adopted the correct line of combining parliamentary and extra parliamentary activity and struggles to achieve this objective.    Jyoti Basu excelled in using parliamentary democracy, its institutions and fora for both advancing this struggle and simultaneously providing greater relief to the people.

The implementation of land reforms, the deepening of democracy by developing the panchayati raj institutions and the articulation of the need for better Centre-State relations to strengthen India's federal character were some of his  important contributions to the process of the consolidation of modern India.  These apart, he was  one of the first to constitute separate ministries for environment and science and technology. 

Apart from all these, the main facet of Jyoti Basu's personality that attracted people towards him was his unassailable faith in them.  He would always urge the Party and its cadre to go to the people and explain to them what we are doing and take them into confidence.  This faith in the people was the strength of his credibility. They never questioned or even doubted his integrity. 

Jyoti Basu as CM

Jyoti Basu voluntarily demitted office of the Chief Ministership in West Bengal, in 2000, after a record tenure of 23 long years setting new standards of political culture and morality in India. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) had accepted his desire to step down since he was not satisfied with not being able to discharge his administrative responsibilities as he was  capable of doing earlier. In an atmosphere where the lust for power has seldom seen people demitting office on such considerations,  this had come as a breath of fresh air.

When Jyoti Basu took over as Chief Minister in 1977, the poverty ratio in West Bengal was nearly 52 per cent. In 1994, this had come down to 26 per cent, a decline of 4.2 per cent per year. West Bengal thus ranked the first, in poverty reduction, amongst all states in India. Incidentally, the state ranking second is Kerala, with 3.7 per cent decline per year. (source: India: Policies to Reduce Poverty, World Bank, 2000).  In comparison, the rate for Maharashtra was 2.7 percent and in 1994 43.5 per cent of its population lived in poverty.

Similarly, in terms of annual rates of growth of the Gross state Domestic Product, West Bengal ranked No. 3, behind Gujarat and Maharashtra with a 6.9 per cent growth per annum. Between 1991-92 and 1997-98 in per capita terms, it stood once again in third place following Gujarat and Maharashtra with a 5.04 per annum increase. (source: Montek Singh Ahluwalia, EPW, May 6, 2000).

Phenomenal advances have been made in the sphere of  agriculture. During this period, West Bengal was transformed from being a chronic heavy food deficit state into one with surplus. By the time Jyoti Basu demitted office, it became the highest rice producing state in the country. West Bengal contributed nearly 20 per cent of the increase in rice production in the entire country. The yield per hectare has also shown substantial increase. More than 90 per cent of the state's agricultural holdings belong to marginal and small farmers, as a result of the success of Operation BargaAs a result of the successful implementation of land reforms, noted economist Dr. Nilakant Rath then analysed that the growth in per capita net domestic product of the agricultural production between 1981-82 and 1994-95 went up by 22 per cent for the whole of India but in West Bengal it went up by a whopping 70 per cent. In 1981-82, West Bengal was amongst the lowest in the country with its per capita net agricultural product being 18 per cent lower than the all India average. By 1994-95, it was above the all India average by about 10 per cent.

These phenomenal achievements in agriculture have once again validated the position that land reforms are not an exercise meant only to achieve distributive rights. While achieving this they also unleashed rapid leaps in productivity which go a long way in reducing the overall levels of poverty.

In terms of distributive justice, it merits repetition that during Jyoti Basu's tenure as Chief Minister 13 lakh acres of agricultural land were distributed amongst the landless. These were illegally held by vested interests in the past. Even if a nominal value of Rs. one lakh per hectare is considered, then the value of the land distributed would be to the tune of  Rs. 13 crore. Such has been the dimension of asset redistribution in West Bengal in favour of the poor and landless.

Thus by all counts, West Bengal during these 23 years under Jyoti Basu's stewardship had shown that it is possible to both alleviate poverty and stimulate growth. But, one should not miss the wood for the trees. All this was possible not because Jyoti Basu or the Left Front government blindly embraced the economic policies of liberalisation. This was possible because they made one fundamental departure from the economic philosophy of liberalisation. And that is in the decisive role of State intervention in achieving the objectives and priorities. Contrary to the liberalisation pundits who advocate the withdrawal of the State from the economic sphere and abdication by the State of its social responsibilities, the Left Front government in West Bengal has played the role of the catalyst in stimulating economic development and the role of the initiator in generating sweeping agrarian reforms.

Sterling Personal Qualities

During my association with Comrade Jyoti Basu in our Party’s Central Committee for over two and a half decades, there are many admirable qualities of his that need to be emulated.  One, is his unassailable faith in the power of reasoning based on the Marxist outlook.  No argument can ever be won with him on the basis of passion or emotions. 

The other facet of his personality is humaneness.   During these years, I had on a few occasions travelled abroad with him, when he held the office of the Chief Minister.  Being the Chief Minister of West Bengal, he, naturally, was entitled to a preferential treatment. But, he always preferred to travel with other comrades and, till his last day in office, travelled only in the economy class of Indian Airlines.  During  such visits, he would, forever, be concerned about the welfare of the other comrades always by taking interest in their comforts and needs. I have, for instance, never seen him loosing his patience even once!

Another enduring quality of his was a self-imposed discipline with which he conducted his personal and political life.  He displayed the rearest of soldier-like quality when his opinion in 1996 to accept the offer to become the Prime Minister in the United Front government  was rejected by a majority of the Central Committee.  Subsequently, the Party Congress at Kolkata in 1998 had endorsed the Central Committee majority opinion.  Notwithstanding his personal opinion, he, till the end, upheld the majority view and worked steadfastly discharging his responsibilities.  Such steadfast loyalty to the organisational principles of a Communist Party and its strict norms of discipline is a quality that the younger generation needs to emulate. 

Comrade Jyoti Basu had a unique sense of humour.  In September 1993, both of us traveled to Cuba at the invitation of the Communist Party of Cuba for meetings with Fidel Castro and the Party leadership.  We traveled via the Spanish capital, Madrid. On our return journey, we had a full day waiting to catch the flight back to India.  The Indian Ambassador to Spain asked if there was anything in particular we would like to see in Madrid.  Com. Jyoti Basu looked at me. I said that since the original `Guernica’ of Picasso was in a museum in Madrid, it would be nice to see that.  This conversation was on our way to Cuba. However, when we returned to Madrid, Com. Jyoti Basu was not really feeling up to the mark to visit the museum. He suggested that I should however go. Upon which the Indian Ambassador said that the museum was being specially opened, on its scheduled off day, for Jyoti Basu.  Hearing this, JB said, “How would they recognize Jyoti Basu as they had never seen him before! Let Sitaram go, they would not know the difference!”  Eventually I did go alone, the museum was opened and I saw the `Guernica’!

Carry Forward the Struggles

The consolidation of the modern Indian Republic and elevating the much required bar of political morality can be achieved only by pursuing this course as  lived by Jyoti Basu.  The strengthening of the secular democratic foundations and, importantly, to complete the unfinished task of converting  the political independence of the country into the true economic emancipation of the people, will define the contours  of such a consolidation.  The widening hiatus between `shining' and `suffering' India needs to be overcome.

This, in turn, requires, from all of us, the strengthening of the spirit of selfless service to the people and the country.  Pledging his body to serve medical science, Jyoti Basu on April 4, 2003, wrote : “As a Communist, I am pledged to serve humanity till my last breath.  I am happy that now I will continue to serve even after my death.”

Jyoti Basu's indomitable fighting spirit that he displayed all his life was there to be seen in death as well.  Running his 96th year when he was brought to the hospital with pneumonia, medical science and doctors, naturally, saw not much hope.  Jyoti Basu, as always, was to surprise everybody.  For 17 days, the fight continued.  `Never say give up' sums up  the spirit of his life.

He is the last of the original nine member Polit Bureau to leave us – the navaratnas that founded the CPI(M) and steered it  through very troubling and exacting times.  The only homage that we can pay to Comrade Jyoti Basu is by redoubling our resolve to carry forward the struggle for human emancipation and liberty to its logical conclusion. 

Lal Salam Comrade Jyoti Basu. 

Comrade Jyoti Basu: A Legend in his Lifetime

By A K Padmanabhan

COMRADE Jyoti Basu, one of the founders of the CITU and one of the great and popular leaders of Indian political spectrum was born in Calcutta on July 8, 1914.  Both his parents hailed from the Dhaka district of the present day Bangladesh.  His mother belonged to an upper middle class, land owning family and father, from a “relatively lower middle class back ground, was a doctor and had been to the US for higher studies”.

As he himself has noted in his memoirs, “there was not even a whiff of politics in the family”.  But he also noted that though “politics was not the hot subject in our household, a certain sense of sympathy and respect for the revolutionaries of those days was not missing though it was underplayed”.

Growing up in an atmosphere of increasing revolutionary movements, storming of the Chittagong armoury, Gandhiji’s hunger strike, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s speeches in largely attended public meetings etc, he was attracted to political developments.

In his memoirs Jyoti Basu refers to the police beatings he and a cousin had to face at Netaji’s public meeting.  He says “The entire area resembled a battle field.  There were mounted policemen, ordinary  constables and sergents in uniform.  When the sergents gave charge, we decided we would not run for safety, naturally, as we started walking away in the face of onslaught, a few canes fell on our backs.  But, we did not flee, we walked briskly to father’s chamber”.

Here we find a young boy of 16 years, with a mind full of support to the freedom movement daring the police beatings, which later on through his life developed into a leadership quality of facing all challenges squarely.

In the year 1935, Jyoti Basu obtained his degree and then left for England for his studies in Law. The four year period of study inLondon moulded him into an activist of the India League, then under the leadership of V K Krishna Menon who later became a cabinet minister in Nehru’s Cabinet.  Later, an organisation named London Majlis was formed and Jyoti Basu was its first secretary. This organisation worked for generating support for the Indian freedom movement and also hosted receptions to visiting nationalist leaders.  Through this, he came into contact with leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and others.  A group of Indian students including Jyoti Basu, attracted to the anti-imperialist movement and Marxian thought, were active at that time inLondon and had close contact with the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Immediately after his exams, without even waiting for the results to be declared, he returned to India in the early 1940s and established contacts with the Communist Party of India.  Though he got enrolled as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, he started working actively as a whole timer of the Communist Party.


In 1944 he started organiSing the Bengal-Nagpur Railway Workers Union and was elected as its general secretary.  Thus began his active involvement in trade union activities which continued till his last days.

It was during this period that Jyoti Basu entered the electoral field.  In the elections to the legislative assembly in 1946 he was nominated as the candidate of the Communist Party from the Railway Workers constituency.  His main opponent was Humayun Kabir, who was also the president of the Railway Employees Association and was fully supported by the Congress.

His long period of legislative work started with this election, which he could win despite various malpractices.  It is interesting to note what he had to say about the election experiences in 1946.

My very first election as a candidate gave me a taste of what bourgeois elections were all about.  It was baptism by fire.  There was a conscious effort to buy votes.  At another level, I saw what honesty and idealism were all about.  Not one person of the electoral college (Railway workers eligible to vote)  had betrayed us, the dedication, perseverance and loyalty of our comrades ensured my victory and above all it was a victory of Railway Workers”.  The lessons of the 1946 election and victory in that would have helped him in all the elections to the state legislature that he contested later!

Jyoti Basu continued to be a member of the West Bengal legislature after independence.  After Bengal was partitioned, all members of the legislature, elected in 1946 from West Bengal area continued as members.  He notes in his memoirs, on the first day of the session after independence which was held in November 1947 – “It may be recalled that on the very first day of the session the state police used lathis and teargas to disperse a gathering of 25 thousand farmers and students organized by the Bengal Provincial Krishak Sabha”.  This was surely a taste of things to come in the later days.

Jyoti Basu, played a leading role in West Bengal and also at the national level in developing the democratic and left movement.  He was involved in building a powerful trade union movement in the state.  In between, the Communist Party was banned, leaders including Jyoti Basu were arrested.  Braving all the attacks, the movement grew in strength.  Jyoti Basu, won the elections in 1952 and again in 1957.  In 1957, he was the formal leader of the opposition in the state legislature.  He won again in 1962 from the same Baranagar constituency.

The period from 1962 to 1967 was of great importance in the history of India.  The Communist Party of India faced a split and the CPI(M) was formed.  Jyoti Basu was elected as a member of the nine member Polit Bureau of the Party and he continued to be in the highest body of the party till his death.


1967 saw the defeat of the Congress in many states and Jyoti Basu was the architect of the new setup after the defeat of the Congress in West Bengal.  In a triangular contest, the Congress was defeated and the two fronts – one led by the CPI(M) and another by the Bangla Congress – came together to form a United Front government with Ajoy Mukherji of Bangla Congress as chief minister and Jyoti Basu as deputy CM.  Thus started the long history of coalition governments in Bengal.

This government lasted only eight months but created history by taking pro-people steps like nationalisation of the Tram Company and repeal of draconian West Bengal Security Act which was used to suppress the people’s movement.  This government declared that the police force will not take a partisan stand in favour of managements in labour disputes.

The next elections in 1969 saw the two fronts contesting together against Congress.  Jyoti Basu became deputy chief minister again with Home and Police as his portfolios.  This government laid the foundation for the land reforms in the state and took many pro-people decisions.  This government lasted only 13 months.  President’s rule was promulgated on March 29, 1970.

This period was a turbulent one in the history of West Bengal.  The Naxalite movement began its murderous attacks against the CPI(M) and its supporters and was also joined by Congressmen in this.  There was a planned murderous attack on Jyoti Basu who was shot at on the railway platform at Patna on March 31, 1970 and a comrade who came to receive him was killed. Jyoti Basu escaped with bruises on his hand.


On the trade union front also, new developments were taking place. With massive struggles in various sectors and in different states, various questions were raised on the approach of the predominant leadership of the AITUC at that time.  It was in such a situation that the decision to call an all India trade union conference to discuss about the formation of a new central trade union organisation was taken.  Jyoti Basu was one of those who took the lead in this along with others like Comrades B T Ranadive, P R Ramamurti.  InWest Bengal, the West Bengal Provincial Trade Union Council fully supported this move.  Jyoti Basu was the chairman of the reception committee for the conference in Calcutta.

In his welcome address to the Conference on May28, 1970, he dealt in detail with the situation in West Bengal and achievements in the short period of the two United Front governments. He also dealt with the tasks of the conference, underlining building up of unity of the working class for struggle, mobilisation of allies to shoulder the historic responsibilities of the working class along with various other issues.

In the Founding Conference, Jyoti Basu was elected as a Working Committee member and in the Second Conference he was elected as vice-president, in which position he guided CITU till his last days.

Jyoti Basu gave leadership to the struggles of the working people in the turbulent days after 1970, and guidance in building up the most powerful unit of the CITU in the country in the state of West Bengal.

The struggles of the West Bengal people, the innumerable killings of leaders and cadres of the CPI(M), the CITU and other mass organisations in the period of 1970-77 are all part of history.  The working people of West Bengal withstood all these cruelties, fought for restoration of democracy and finally became victorious.


In 1977, the first Left Front government was formed and Comrade Jyoti Basu was sworn in as chief minister. For 23 years he continued as chief minister, winning five consecutive elections. He then stepped down from the post and without contesting, spearheaded the battle in the next two elections.  A total of 34 years of Left Front government is a record for any Left government in a bourgeois system. Jyoti Basu created history as the longest serving chief minister in India.

The achievements of the Left Front governments of West Bengal, starting from restoration of democratic rights and release of all political detenues are also well known. Jyoti Basu had made a declaration that “this Government will not rule from Writers Buildingonly” immediately after taking over in 1977.

The limitations of a state government were also made clear to the people of West Bengal.  In an interview he clarified about the experiment of the Left Front government:  “It is not a socialist economy and system operating here.  We have not made tall promises.  Whatever we can do, we have told them.  One thing we cannot do, that is, bring about fundamental changes. Because, we are not a republic of West Bengal.  We are part of India”.

The 34 year Left Front government  in West Bengal made an immense contribution to the building up of the left and democratic movement in the country and initiated innumerable pro-people programmes, especially for the workers, peasants and rural workers.


In the elections to the Lok Sabha, in 2009, the Left Front faced a setback.  At that time he said “It is the people who determine the course of history. There can be some who misunderstand us temporarily, but if we keep going to the people repeatedly and make ourselves worthy of their love, they will most certainly understand us.  We will have to again draw to our side those who opposed us in the last Panchayat and Lok Sabha elections”.

This is the immediate task Jyoti Basu had outlined to the leaders of the working class movement in West Bengal. The lofty ideals, for which he struggled all through his public life of more than seventy years are there for us to achieve.

Though Jyoti Basu left us forever on January 17, 2010, his life and teachings will surely guide us towards our goals.

Let us never forget what he said “There is nothing more valuable in life than the love of the people.  We are always ready to sacrifice our lives for a greater cause… There should not be any regrets in having led a life of disuse.  That has always been my bottom line.

Long live the legacy of the great revolutionary Comrade Jyoti Basu.


CPI(M) announces year-long programme for Basu centenary

Press Trust of India |  Kolkata  July 6, 2013

KOLKATA: CPI(M) announced a year-long programme today on the occasion of the birth centenary of Marxist patriarch and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu from July eight.

''A wider programme cannot be chalked out initially as panchayat election is round the corner and also considering the fact that people will be busy in campaigns and polls,'' CPI(M) state secretary and Politburo member Biman Bose said here today.

Bose said the party would project the life and activities of Jyoti Basu during his long political career as also his acumen as a statesman and chief minister of West Bengal which he served for a record 23 years from 1977 to the new generation.

Jyoti Basu, the longest-serving chief minister of any state in the country from 1977 to 2000 before he handed over the mantle to his deputy Buddhadev Battacharjee, is still regarded for his ideals which united the proletariat and strengthened the movement of the working class.

Bose said that the main function would be held at Mahajati Sadan as that the party's application for holding the programme at Nazrul Manch to accommodate a larger crowd was not entertained by the authorities.

The party will also release a memorial volume which will highlight Basu's life and philosophy, sources in it said.

CPI(M)'s labour wing CITU has already announced a year-long programme to mark the occasion.

CITU sources said that the celebration would mainly showcase ideologies of Basu, who was its founder vice-president and focus on the initiatives taken by him to spread the working class movement.