Friday, January 29, 2010

End of Jyoti Basu Era

A life of struggle and unprecedented political success; integrity and commitment all the way defined the towering persona of Jyoti Basu-last long marchers of Indian politics. An exemplary life met to final rest on January 17th, 2010 in Kolkata, after witnessing a prolific life span {July 8th, 1914-January17th, 2010}-infact he remained a man of immense political stature, one of India’s frontline illustrious leaders and statesmen from the past century.
Despite hailing from a non-political albeit privileged background, this man has credit to consolidate the idea of communism in the land of India and serving West Bengal as independent India’s longest serving Chief Minister {June 1977-November2000}.

This chief architect of Indian communism led the Communist Party of India {Marxist} and left front to the first five of its seven successive assembly elections-amazingly introduced Land reforms in West Bengal that significantly consolidated a rural class.This most reliable Bhadra Lok from Bengal was known from practicing a single buzzword called-responsibility which he never let apart from himself; in his consistent stint, he laid the way to democratization of Panchayati Raj in West Bengal which immensely benefited the landscape of rural Bengal {Gram Bangla}.
Austerity and entrusted democratic elements within his personality always enabled him to defy any sort of covering for his or governments shortcomings-he tried to met with the developmental challenges like, education, health, industry etc; establishment of the Haldia Petro-Chemical Complex and the creation of an atmosphere of communal harmony was few among his great contributions.

If Marxist leaders-E.M.S.Naboodiripad, B.T.Ranadive and Basavapunniah evolved themselves as exponents and developers of Marxist theory; some others-P.Sunderaiyya, Pramode Dasgupta and Harkishan Singh Surjeet significantly added value in organizational affairs-Mr. Basu’s great strength was lies in another domain-masses, in simplest evaluation, he would be best identified as a teacher and evangelist of communism and egalitarianism.
This epoch maker of Indian politics had sensed very early the dawn of soul calling during his Senior Cambridge at St. Xavier’s school-he shared such bubbling thoughts with his doctor father that I don’t feel like going to school-later listening of icons like Subhas Chandra Bose at Calcutta Maidan in 1930’s along with his cousin by symbolically wearing an unmatched homemade Khadi attire greatly inspired him for service of nation.

He offended through suppressive acts of British police on demonstrators and like a true budding revolutionary faced baton charges-in further course as a student of prestigious Presidency College, he morally supported the rebellion in Chittagong Armory Raid in 1930’s {Interview with Jyoti Basu by Parvathi Menon, Frontline, December 3-16,2005}before moving to Middle Temple to be a Barrister{London}in 1935,immediate after the completion of B.A{Honours in English} from Presidency College {Calcutta University}.

That decade was stuffed with upheavelling inferences-students particularly those from Indian sub-continents were concerned with the freedom struggle in the institutions like, Oxford, Cambridge, and London School of Economics etc. Then communist leaders from India and-Muzaffar Ahmad in particular were in fine touch with the Communist Party of Great Britain{CPGB}which used to inspire the grooming student revolutionary like, Hiren Mukherjee, Sajjad Zaheer, Jyoti Basu and many others contemporaries to come back in own country and work for the party.
By same linkage and inspiration, the London based Indian students formed All Greta Britain Indian Students Federation, London Majlis {Jyoti Basu was General Secretary} and Indian League {Krishna Menon}; there job was
to hold meetings about the development of freedom struggle in country and when leaders like Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhulabhai Desai, Vijaya Laxmi Pandit and others went to London, they hosted receptions in their honour.

Time spent in London were equally flamboyant as his later life; here he was deeply influenced with the lucid and scholaric narratives of Harold Laski, Rajani Palme Dutta {Reporter, Third International} and Brother Clemens Dutta, Bhupesh Gupta-which in his own words proved contagious, so, before waiting for his final results of Bar at Law, Jyoti Basu returned to Calcutta on January 1,1940 and joined the party only two days later-infact it was a daring departure from a comfortable career in legal practices to the rough pitches of politics.
He forayed to the space of Indian communism in a very unusual era of its maneuverings-party was still not being able to emerge from the transition with Congress charisma and later party’s decision to support the imperialist war as peoples war since its ally U.S.S.R was attacked by the Germany in 1941 was right till than because in India, a sort of silent consensus was prevailing in favour of Soviet Union as mass perception and even the voices like Tagore regarded U.S.S.R as defender of civilization; but party’s move to dissociate itself from Quit India movement in 1942 proved blunder in longer course where it loosed the touch from peoples on pan country scale.

Anyway that wasn’t true replica of Jyoti Basu, like a true volunteer he did exemplary services during the very adverse phages of riot {1946} and Great Bengal Famine in 1949, in which approximately thirty lakhs lives lost. In 1944, Mr. Basu moved to trade union work {port dock} and later started building a railway union in the region named as Bengal Assam Railway Workers Union-his legislature journey also begins from same Railway constituency in the government formed by the Muslin League under the Suharawardy in 1946. Despite of some ups and downs, the left played very decisive role in the freedom movement.

His roles formidably grew within and outside the party in independent India-he hold the charge of Secretary of West Bengal Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of India{CPI}from 1952 to 1957; was elected to assembly in 1952,57,62,67,69,71,77,82,87,99. He also served as Leader of opposition in assembly from1957-1967 before holding the charge of deputy Chief Minister in the two united front governments in West Bengal{1967-69}.
Finally he emerged as Chief Minister on June21, 1977 and further led the Left Front government for five consecutive terms before voluntary relinquishing the office as CM on November 6,2000-indeed he succeeded to provide an alternative form of governance. There are very few examples like operation Berga which he introduced in 1978 with the help of Kishan Sabha for distribution surplus land-he executed a very sound land reform in West Bengal which entirely redefined the existing state of affairs.

He always believed that communists are destined to play a major role in preserving the country’s secular and egalitarian credentials; he remained acutely conscious of his Marxist identity, but for sure, he wasn’t quite the purist that Basavpunniah or Ranadive were. He never detached from party line even for a while albeit used pragmatism in statecraft-example like policy on Foreign Capital Investment {1994}, in which he regarded the role of private sector in the development. Without any suspicion, he would have been the tenth Prime Minister of India in 1996 if he acted in his best capacity, instead he shown greatness by following the ethics of Party’s principles.
This grand old man of Indian politics never hesitated from the consensus based maneuverings and remained instrumental in the formation of most of the non-Congress government at the centre; even he pioneered for the first UPA
Government in 2004. Lastly he was very genuinely a leader of the masses and in many ways his passing away signals the end of an era.
Atul Kumar Thakur
January26th2010, New Delhi


  1. aapke is writing pieace padh kar bahut jankari hasil hui,bahut gyan hai aapkko.. bas meti ek gujarish hai aapse ki aap apni lekhan karya ko hindi bhasa me kare to aap jyada achchi tarah se aapni baat kah sakenge... hinid me likhne me koi hinta ka bhav nahi hona chaiye.. bade bade lekhak aapni matru bhasha me likhte hai.. imandari se kahun to aap apni scholarship se saath badi na insaafi kar rahe hai.. is angrezi ke chkkar me padkar.. ye aapki schoalrhip ko recongnition dilane jyada madad nahi kar payegi.. dekhiye na aap ne kitni grammtical galatiyan ki hai isi article.. padhne wala irritate ho jata hai.. aap shayd bahut mehanati hai.. mai umid karat hun ke aap ise anyatha na lenge

  2. Thanks Anonymous,nice to see your views albeit I am sure about my committment to my mother language..for your kind attention I wish to convey you that I have equally fond for creative production in Hindi.Please all point out about the gramatical eror you have found in this article...Aur aant me,Hindi likhane me software ka prayog nahi karen...Atul Thakur

  3. Thank you very much for writing such an excellent article over the legendary Communist leader MrJyoti Basu;you have put enough energy to cover all the intricacies of his life and work.Hoping same excellent committment in further course as well.

  4. Readindg about the great Jyoti Basu in your article endowed me with many new perspectives which was untapped from my knowledge.Writing on him certailnly needed a close observation of Bengali culture apart from essential knoledge of political dynamicism-you have succeded to a large extant in your depiction..yes,also thanks for your great article over the city of Calcutta 'Intriguing Calcutta".Your blog is a big treasure..will remain its regular reader now.