I am not a member of CPI (M) or any of its associated bodies. Yet today I have been gripped by a sense of vacuum. For the first time at the age of 60 I have realised that throughout my life till today I have been led by Comrade Jyoti Basu, who I had never met. Perhaps many individuals of my generation are feeling like me. We who have witnessed the rise of the Left movement in West Bengal realise that the Communist parties could dream of a society in which every human being is respected and everyone is empowered to protect his /her legitimate rights. They struggled to make that dream a reality. The struggle was tough and the sacrifice was enormous. I salute those who led that movement. Comrade Jyoti Basu was most prominent among them. With the demise of Comrade Basu, perhaps we have lost the last of the politicians of the pre-independence era.
I spent my childhood in Ichapur, a suburb of Kolkata. I do not know how at the age of 12 I started working for Comrade Yamini Saha, the CPI candidate at the Noyapara seat in the 1962 general election. Perhaps I was attracted by the simplicity and integrity of Comrade Saha and his commitment to the upliftment of the downtrodden and the working class. I could see his activities personally and my father used to tell me about his activities among factory workers. While working for Comrade Saha, I came to know about Comrade Jyoti Basu. At that age I was highly impressed by his personality — particularly the way he used to put forward his arguments in a simple language which even a school student like me could understand. Later I used to follow every speech of Comrade Basu and his views on political issues. I started admiring him for his political acumen, forthrightness, the ability to put forward views in a simple, clear and civilised language, his ability to understand people’s need and his ability to bind parties with diverse groups.
My close association with the activities of the CPI (M) came to an end when I left West Bengal in 1973 to take up an employment in Allahabad. But today I realised that I am still guided by my childhood ideology imbibed during my association with CPI (M) and the lessons I learned by following the speeches, views and actions of Comrade Basu as a public leader. Today while watching the last journey of Comrade Basu tears came to my eyes. I realised that I had lost my leader, who will never again guide me by his actions. A sense of vacuum gripped me.
The contribution of Comrade Basu to Indian politics and in the development or otherwise of the West Bengal will be reviewed by academics and others. It will be debated whether he took the State forward or took it backward. The CPI (M) will internally debate on the policies followed by Comrade Basu. But no one can question his faith in communist ideology and commitment to serve the proletariat.
January 19, 2010
-Asish K Bhattacharyya
Professor of Finance and Control, IIM, Calcutta