Homage to Jyoti Basu

Homage to Jyoti Basu

Date: 17 January 2010
Condolence Resolution of the Polit Bureau
Homage to Jyoti Basu
The Polit Bureau of the CPI (M) expresses its profound grief at the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu, senior most leader of the Party and one of the tallest leaders of the Communist movement in India who was the Chief Minister of the Left Front government of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000. He was 95 years old.

Jyoti Basu became a Communist while studying law in Britain. He came in contact with the British Communist party. He joined the Communist Party of India on his return in 1940. He began working in the railway trade union movement and became an important functionary of the B.A. Railroad Workers Union and the All India Railway men's Federation. In 1946,he was elected to the Bengal legislative assembly from a railway constituency.

He was the Secretary of the provincial committee of the CPI from 1953 to 1961. He became a member of the Central Committee of the CPI in 1951. When the CPI (M) was formed he became one of the founder Polit Bureau and Central Committee members, positions he continued in, till his death. He played a significant role in developing the CPI (M) in West Bengal along with Promode Dasgupta. Jyoti Basu made his mark as the leader of the opposition in the assembly between 1957 and l967. He was twice Deputy Chief Minister in the United Front governments between 1967 and 1970. His role in the government in supporting the struggle for implementation of land reforms and in not allowing the police to be used against workers and peasants' struggles was notable.

Jyoti Basu belonged to the leadership of the CPI M) which steered the Party through the difficult days of semi-fascist terror in West Bengal in the early seventies. After the sweeping victory of the Left Front in 1977, Jyoti Basu became the Chief Minister of the Left Front government, a position he held continuously for more than 23 years, a record in the country. Under his leadership, the Left Front government embarked on land reforms on a scale unprecedented in the country; it instituted a panchayati raj system which was radical for its times, which gave the poor peasants and small farmers a say in running the panchayati institutions. West Bengal became an oasis of communal harmony and secular values under his leadership. One has to recall how as Chief Minister he dealt with the situation after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 when violence against Sikhs broke out in various parts of the country, but nothing was allowed to happen in West Bengal. Similarly he dealt firmly with efforts to instigate trouble after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

Jyoti Basu became a symbol for the Left, democratic and secular forces in the country. In West Bengal, the people adored him and respected him for his championing of their cause. He became the role model for all Communists and progressives on how to work in parliamentary institutions and serve the people. During this seven decades of work in the Communist party, he spent three and a half years in prison and two years underground.

Jyoti Basu as Chief Minister and as a Left leader played an important role in pushing for restructuring Centre-State relations and rallying other Chief Ministers and political leaders for the cause.

He played a prominent role in bringing together Left and secular parties against the Congress government in the nineteen eighties and later against the BJP in the nineties.

Jyoti Basu was a Marxist who never wavered in his convictions. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the setbacks to socialism, he provided the leadership along with his colleagues in the Polit Bureau to make a reappraisal of the experience of building socialism and to pinpoint the errors and to correct wrong notions and understandings while remaining true to Marxism-Leninism. He was a Marxist who was not dogmatic and continued to learn from his vast experience in charting out the course for the Party.

He emerged as the pre-eminent and most popular leader of the Party, but he always worked as a disciplined member of the Party, setting an example for all. In his long career in the Party, he undertook various responsibilities including being the first editor of People's Democracy. He had a lifelong association with the trade union movement and was the Vice-President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions since its inception in 1970.

He stepped down from the Chief Ministership in 2000 due to ill health and advanced age. But he continued to work and discharge responsibilities till the end of his life. He became the source of inspiration and a fount of advice for the Party and the Left movement in the country. Irrespective of political affiliation, across the political spectrum, he was respected by all and accepted as a national leader.

The Left movement in the country was fortunate in having such an accomplished and dedicated leader at the helm of affairs in West Bengal and in the leadership of the CPI (M) for such a long time. His precious legacy is there for all of us to cherish and nurture.

The Polit Bureau salutes the memory of our beloved departed comrade. We pledge to carry forward his cause and work. We convey our heartfelt condolences to his son, Chandan Basu, granddaughters and other family members.

(for CPI(M) Central Committee office)


Shri Biman Basu,
Chairman, Left Front West Bengal

It is a fact that comrade Jyoti Basu was aged, but still it is very difficult to feel that he is no more with us. Jyoti Basu was one of the greatest leaders of the communist movement of the first era in our country. From the mid of 40’s till 2009, almost about 7 decades he was the outstanding leader of the communist movement, Democratic and Secular movement and struggle in Bengal and in India.

Personally in 1958, when I got the party membership, the red card I received had a signature of Jyoti Basu because he was the Secretary of the state party. Before being the party member, I had listen to many of his speeches, often I felt that he, without concluding his sentence of the speech has started speaking of a new topic, but it was not difficult for the people to understand the message of the speech. He had this unique quality of presenting his speech to make people understand which all did not have. Again as an administrator Jyoti Basu was very efficient. We have witnessed his efficiency in his work during the United Front in1967 and in 1969. Even when he was the leader of the opposition, still we have seen that he had sharply put forward the demands of the people strongly and in principle manner within the Assembly and outside, in presence of the mass rally. As a political leader since he had this unique qualities, he was an acceptable leader to the people and all left parties.

In the year 1977, he performed a significant role accompanied with Com. Promod Dasgupta in forming the Left Front. Again, after 1977 in formation of the left Front Government, Com. Promod Dasgupta and Com. Jyoti Basu in a joint statement strongly appealed that it is not desirable of the Communist and Leftist to take revenge of any repression and tortured on mass movement and attack on the communist under the leadership of the Congress party. For the interest of the people of the state and to strengthen the economy of India he had submitted many proposals. During the tenure of his Chief Ministorship he introduced Land reforms, Panchayati Raj system and played a vital role against the Landlords in protecting the interest of the landless farmers. In this way he brought a new wave in village economy. In demand of reinstating the center state relation and in implementing the Federal structure of the Constitution, he had organized many times different state Chief Ministers’ conference, with a view to build up a public opinion all over India for appropriate solution of the issues.

He called for the movement to establish in the state, the Salt Lake Electronic Complex, Bakreswar Thermal Power Plant, Haldia Petro-Chemical Industry and fought for to materialize the Industries. Introducing a new industrial policy in 1994, for the expansion of industry in West Bengal he conveyed the message to the Industrialists that West Bengal is an ideal sate for industries. Therefore, Jyoti Basu consistently worked in creating opportunity of employment for the unemployed youths of the state. He also took unprecedented initiative to attract the investors from India and outside to invest in the Industries. At the same time, he struggled uncompromisingly against the Communal and Fundamental forces to keep the state and the people free from it.

From the beginning of his political activities Jyoti Basu struggled for the cause of the working people specially keeping in touch with the railway workers employees organization, and from this Railway Constituency Jyoti Basu was elected in the Bengal Assembly in 1946 and participated directly in the parliamentary politics till the year 2000.

Jyoti Basu had the power of attracting people from all the sections of the society. The West Bengal and India has lost an abled politician like Jyoti Basu, who was in the true sense a rare visionary, a leader of the people.

A Unique and Beloved Leader

Brinda Karat
Polit Bureau Member of CPI(M) & Member of Parliament

The colossus of the Indian communist movement, the last of the navratnas who comprised the first Polit Bureau of the CPI(M), our beloved leader Comrade Jyoti Basu is no more. He fought till the end, once again bowing to the demands of those around him—don’t give up Comrade, we need you. But at the end the mighty heart stood still. His diminutive figure was deceptive. It concealed an iron constitution and an even stronger will. The doctors were amazed at his resilience. A year ago he was diagnosed as having a brain hemorrhage, consequent to a fall he had suffered, though he was fully conscious. The panel of doctors were divided in their opinion of what should be done, with some advocating a brain surgery. His son Chandan and long time personal assistant Joy Ghosh were against a surgery. It was difficult to decide. At that time Comrades Biman Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya felt it was best to consult Com. Jyoti Basu himself. It was an absolutely amazing experience for me. Com. Jyoti Basu had already prepared himself for the “meeting.” He was sitting up in a chair in his hospital room and asked for the logic behind both the opinions. He heard both sides patiently asked some questions then fell silent for a minute. We were all tense but not Comrade Jyoti Basu. In a most matter of fact way he said I would prefer to avoid surgery now. It was accepted and that was the end of the debate. One of the doctors later told me “I have never seen a patient like him, so detached even when it concerns such a problem that would have made the strongest of men nervous.” As it happens it was absolutely the right decision because during the current phase of illness when the doctors had a series of tests in the hospital it was found that the entire pool of blood in his brain had been absorbed. He bore his deteriorating health problems with a sense of dignity and will power even though we could see that he was suffering. Even when he was ill and unable to come to meetings, his wise counsel and guidance were always there for the Party, for his comrades. The doctors, nurses and medical staff in the hospital tried hard to keep away the dark shadow hovering at the door. But the inevitable came to pass. In his death the country has lost one of its greatest sons, a man who was born into privilege, who turned his back on it, to fight the fight of the dispossessed.

His was a unique role and he set many precedents. Seventy years in public life in the service of the people; a trade union leader who won his first election from the railway workers constituency and continued to be elected, serving in the Bengal Assembly for five decades, interrupted only because of the rigged elections in 1971 and the Emergency; a parliamentarian who used his brilliant skills to raise the voice of the people and later as head of Government, to forge alternative policies; a leader who faced several death threats but who never flinched when the bullets flew at him showing exemplary personal courage; a popular leader who insisted on stepping down from the CMs post in spite of the unanimous appeal of his comrades not do so, because he believed that his health did not permit him to work as he would like to; his acceptance of the decision of the Central Committee in 1996 to decline the offer of the Prime Minister’s post. On his return to Kolkata, when he was asked repeatedly about his personal reaction, he only replied “I am a disciplined soldier of the Party.” That too was unique. He deeply respected and set the highest example of maintaining communist norms. The greatness of Jyoti Basu also lay in his absolute lack of rancour against individuals who may have differed with him politically. He spoke his mind and expected others to do so too. He was extremely democratic and though his towering personality could have silenced any differences if he had wanted to, he never imposed his will but always went by the collective. He taught us the meaning of discipline. He set an example by coming every day without fail to the Party office before going on to fulfil his heavy responsibilities as Chief Minister? Once when he felt that I had acted in an individualist manner he called me and said however important you think your point is, never forget that no individual is above the party, you must always abide by the collective decision of the Party.

The higher his stature grew impacting on national politics as the longest serving Chief Minister in the country and the one with the most impeccable record of integrity, the sharper his unerring instinct and understanding of the grass roots and the pulse of the people. In contrast to the perceived image of “being aloof” he was closest to the thoughts of the people. He was inspirational in his unswerving commitment to the interests of the working class and the poor. A true communist, he cared deeply for people and was loved by them in return. He never cared for the trappings of power and that is why people identified with him. They believed that wherever he was he would be doing the right thing for them. Recently at Howrah station I was surrounded by a group of railway porters who expressed concern about his health. When I said he was better they expressed relief “Jug jug jiyo Jyoti Basu, he is our man.’ In Bengal and all over the country there will be numerous workers and the poor in the villages who grieve today the passing of a man who lived his life to create a world more just for them. For them Jyoti Basu was always “our man,” they knew that wherever he was their interests were uppermost in his mind.

They trusted him because Jyoti Basu always spoke the truth to the people. He never exaggerated what he could do for them, he always pointed out the pitfalls. At a time when melodrama and hyperbolic promises mark the political scenario, Jyoti Basu’s quality of being absolutely straightforward in what he said to the people in the hundreds and thousands of meetings he addressed in his life was uncommon. I was once told a story about one of his meetings. He was addressing a meeting of youth in a basti in Kolkata. The meeting was about the American war against Vietnam. He found a lot of people holding their noses because of a terrible stench in the area which was caused by the corpse of a dead animal. Without batting an eye lid JB took the mike and reportedly said “Before talking about the American attack on Vietnam I will speak about the attack on our senses by this dead dog and request our young friends to remove it .If we can’t deal with a dead dog, who will believe that we can fight the Americans!” The audience laughed, the dog was promptly removed and a lesson learnt, if you talk in the air without a link with what is on the ground, you will get not only closed noses but closed ears. I asked Com Jyoti Basu if this story was true but he only smiled and said speak to the people, not above them. He had the most emancipated outlook, the very epitome of anti-feudalism. His strong reactions against violence against women, his encouragement to building up women’s movements in resistance were evident to all women comrades in the Party. They looked to Jyoti Basu for support and he gave it unstintingly. I remember in the early 1980s eighties when we were in the midst of an anti-dowry campaign in Delhi there was some criticism based on the understanding that dowry would remain as long as capitalism did, so struggles were futile. EMS and Jyoti Basu were in Delhi at the time and some of us had gone to the central party office. He called us and warmly congratulated us. When we told him of the doubts being raised he laughed and said, tell the same comrades then that there is no use fighting at all since in spite of all their struggles capitalism still remains! He took the initiative to move a resolution in the West Bengal Assembly in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill and within the Party he always urged his comrades to bring more women into the party and to give them more responsibilities.
For many comrades in different parts of the country his absence is a very deep personal loss. We always felt much more confident when we had shared a problem with him and heard his advice. He was a guardian, a pillar of strength, a beloved leader.
In the stormy years between 1967 and 1970 under the leadership of Jyoti Basu and Promode Dasgupta the party in Bengal first came to power. Jyoti Basu became Deputy Chief Minister. It was also the period of the naxalite movement. In far away London, where I was at that time, the echoes of the struggles could be heard among the heated discussions among Indian students. The CPI(M) was referred to as Jyoti Basu’s party and there were two opposing camps, those belonging to Jyoti Basu’s party and the rest. I remember writing in my diary how proud I felt to belong to his side! I met Comrade Jyoti Basu at the end of 1970 in the Lake Place residence of veteran communist leader Muzaffar Ahmed. I happened to be there when Com Jyoti Basu came and I was introduced to him. During the semi-fascist terror in Bengal in the early seventies I got a message that Com Jyoti Basu wanted to see me. He asked me to arrange for some people to meet him. Since then he used to keep a watchful tab on what I was doing. After the emergency was declared and I was shifting to Delhi Com. Jyoti Basu called me and said “Your father is very worried about you. I have reassured him. I told him that your daughter is now with us and we are going to look after her.” So many numerous comrades, women comrades in particular benefited from his support and encouragement. I was deeply privileged as were others, to have had his affection and encouragement.

Jyoti Basu in his reach to the world went far beyond the party he built and loved. He not only touched the lives of millions but by his pioneering leadership he changed their lives giving the poor confidence and dignity. He has left us grieving and bereft, because there never ever will be a person like him again.

Condolence message from Chief Minister of West Bengal

We are deeply saddened by the death of our revered leader Jyoti Basu. Known as living legend, he was respected by all sections of the people both home and abroad. He had been at the forefront of the communist movement since the beginning of the 1940. He played a very significant role in organizing the left and democratic movement all over the country. His role in the formation of the Left Front Government in West Bengal is well known. He led the Left Front Government for consecutive five terms. He was our guardian. In his death the country has lost a great leader and the left and democratic movement in the country has received a severe blow. He will be ever remembered for his contribution to the country.

Sunday, January 17, 2010