It is generally lamented that we have lot of politicians around, but very few statesmen. Com. Jyoti Basu belongs to a unique fraternity of eminent statesmen, with impeceable integrity and stainless sincerity. This fraternity, of late, can be only described as an endangered species.
There is a crisis of credibility and confidence in our society. Moreover an all pervading pessimism is engulfing the ethos of our Society. The temporary setbacks suffered by the socialist forces in the former USSR and East Europe (due to the grave aberrations, distortions and shortcomings in formulating and implementing the sceintific and democratic principles of socialism) have also generated a great extent of indifference, nay disenchantment among people about matters of polity and soceity.
Those who cherish lofty ideals of democracy, humanism, secularism and socialism are deeply pained over this environment. In such a complex and confusing environment, it is very meaningful and appropriate to have an appreciation and evaluation of people who have made remarkable contribution for the struggle towards establishing an egalitarian society, aimed at the common well being of every citizen. This volume on Com. Jyoti Basu would be a source of inspiration to the new generation which has many things to study and emulate from the life and works of persons like Com. Jyoti Basu.
There is no gainsaying the fact that though the creation or the product of history, Com. Jyoti Basu has himself made history in many ways. Karl Marx has indeed rightly pointed out that man creates history not according to his own volition or in his chosen environment, but history takes shape within the confines of a given time and space handed over to a man by the past generations. This view of Karl Marx is so totally true in case of Com. Jyoti Basu and his contribution to contempoary history.
The history that Com. Jyoti Basu has made is well known. He has served West Bengal as the Chief Minister for a period of over 18 years without interruption. But qualitatively more important point that has to be understood is the fact that he has been the Chief Minister of the State for such a long period remaining totally dedicated to the ideals of scientific socialism and as the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), heading the Left Front Government. When people and the press discuss about political stability, more often than not they tend to ignore this remarkable feat achieved by Com. Jyoti Basu.
The Left Front Government headed by Com. Jyoti Basu has provided a stable Government to the people of West Bengal for the longest period with Assembly elections, as well as Panchayat and Municipal elections held at appropriate intervals. However the significant aspect is not just the record in longivity of the Govt. headed by him, but the meaningful steps taken by it during its tenure.
Even though no one would claim that the effort or mandate of the Jyoti Basu Government has been to establish Socialism or Peoples Democracy in the state of West Bengal, meaningful and significant reforms and programmes have, however, been undertaken during the Chief Minstership of Com. Jyoti Basu, which have clearly demostrated the sincerity and commitment ofpurpose of the Left Parties and the CPI(M) to the cause of hitherto exploited sections of society.
Effective legislation and implementation of Land reforms, emphasis on agricultural development, meaningful steps towards, devolution of power to lower levels going down upto the panchayat, empowerme1Jt of women, massive literacy drive, emphasizing elementary education, new initiatives for rapid industrialisation and employment-generation and converting the power-deficit West Bengal into a power-surplus state are few such indisputable achievments of the Left Front Government in West Bengal.
The effective leadership of Com. Jyoti Basu as the Chief Minister of the State bears its stamp on all the significant achievements. At the same time it may be remembered that there are severe handicaps and numerous difficulties in leading a Left Front Government, as many of the expectations of the people cannot be met due to political, administrative and fiscal limitations of the State administration within the constitutional frame work. Com. Jyoti Basu has summarised some of those difficulties in these words:
"The partition, followed by large influx of refugees, placed us in a very difficult situation and Government of India did not pay adequate attention to meet the situation and on the contrary, freight equalisation on steel, iron and coal for 40 years placed a major constraint on the State nullifying its competitive advantage. Licensing of industries by the Centre was used against the industrial development of the State and some industrialists also got the wrong message and invested elsewhere, this affecting the industrial growth of the State resulting in lack of new investments, sickness and stagnation. There was also palpable discrimination in sanctions from all-India Financial Institutions and direct investment from the Central Government. I have been fighting against such discriminatory policies for the last 17 years".
In tackling these difficulties Com. Jyoti Basu could base himself on the programmatic understanding of the CPI(M) to a great extent, at the same time depending upon the personal leadership qualities and the entire organization of the Left Front Parties and their class and mass organisations in general and the CPI(M) in particular. With regard to the formation of and participation in governments the programme enunicatedby CPI(M) correctly highlights that -.
'The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic state and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and peasantry, the party will utilise all the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people.
The formation of such governments will give great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the pocess of building the democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The Party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord state and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising all opportunities for forming such governments of a transitional character which give immediate relief to the people and thus strengthen the mass movement."
The experience of West Bengal in translating this programmatic understanding into the concrete situation of West Bengal is certainly admirable, particularly, if viewed in the overall Indian context and also keeping in view the changes that have been taking place in the world. It is undoubtedly true that the first step ever in this direction was undertaken by the E.M.S. Ministry of Kerala during 1957-59 period. Similarly, the experience of the tiny State of Tripura under the Left Front rule is also to be assessed and assimilated into the fund ofknowledge of the democratic movement, along with the three Leftled Govts. of Kerala subsequent to the '57 ministry.
The experience and model of West Bengal, however stands out as a unique and distinct example. A deep study of the experience of the West Bengal Left Front needs separate treatment, especially in the context of what has happened in the former USSR and East Europe. The formation of the Left Front Government on the sound foundations of a proper political-ideological perspective is the major achievement.
In organisational terms also the experiment has proved a resounding success. The most important contribution to the success of the democratic experiment in West Bengal has been organisationally made by the democratic sections and organisations of the working class, peasantry, women, youth, students, middle class employees, teachers and toiling masses by attracting and educating newer and newer sections of masses about the need for strengthening the Left Front Government for the further advance and successes of the democratic forces.
This they have been doing by drawing inspiration from the principles of scientific socialism. Various class and mass organisations and their struggles have made the most important contribution towards the emergence and continuance of the Left Front and the Government led by it. And in all these, the contribution of two leaders to be remembered with great respect are Com. Jyoti Basu and Com.Pramode Das Gupta. The organisational leadership given by the late Com. Pramode Das Gupta and the mass awakening and mobilization carried out by the political leadership of Com. Jyoti Basu formed the cornerstone of the Left Front success stroy. This is not to underplay the significant contribution of millions of other comrades and important leaders. But the contribution of these two stands out distinctly.
Certainly, one cannot forget the remarkable help extended to these two luminaries of communist movement by the other leaders of the democratic movement. Com. Jyoti Basu and Com. Pram ode Das Gupta have worked as an integral part of the national leadership of the CPl(M), who can be rightly described as outstanding leaders with undisputable tradition of being active freedom fighters. P. Sundarayya, B. T. Ranadive, A. K. Gopalan, P. Ramamurthy and M. Basavapunnaiah who are no more with us now, made stellar contributions to the awakening of the Indian people. Com. Jyoti Basu, Com. EMS Namboodiripad and Com. Harkishan Singh Surjeet are sustaining the ideals and are today the torch bearers of the tradition of the democratic movement and the national movement in India. These leaders were the products offreedom struggle and they uphold the cherished values which are fast fading away.
The remarkable achievments of Com. Jyoti Basu is that despite remaining at the helm of affairs of a State with over 60 million people for the last 18 years, no one has dared to level any charge of corruption against him. His impeceable integrity is beyond doubt. This he could achieve not only due to his great personal qualities and moral standards but also du.e to the fact that in a class divided society he stands on the side
of the toiling millions, the working class, peasants and their political party. The ideology and principles of CPI(M) makes every leader belonging to his party to follow high standards of public accountability and discipline. At the same time, the stature and eminence of Com. Jyoti Basu along with others also lends prestige to his political party.
"When we find degeneration of moral standards and values in public life all around and more so in the realm of politics, we are called upon to think about and work out, on a war footing, various measures required to cleanse the communalised, criminalised and corrupt political environment to the extent possible. It is in this context that the evaluation of leaders like Com. Jyoti Basu become relevant and inspiring. This can. even encourage the launching of a movement for national regeneration, joined by all . those who are conscientious and concerned about the sad state of affairs.
The humble beginning of Com. Jyoti Basu as a trade union leader in the city of Calcutta in spite of his coveted education abroad is an important aspect in his making. As a local-level leader, he participated and led many a struggle which also gave him experience and moulded him as a firm and robust leader of the down trodden. It is by participating in people's struggles especially that of working class that he graduated as an important leader of the general democratic movement. Presently, in the 'liberalised economy' and open market system people tend to favour anything instant. There is, therefore., no dearth of instant leaders. Many of the problems that beset Indian society today are partly due to the emergence of instant leaders at the helms of affairs of various social and political organisations. They tend to forget something very important, Experience, however, is something which cannot be replaced or substituted by anything else.
Even at the ripe age of 80, Com. Jyoti Basu works and moves like a vibrant and dynamic youth. In fighting the cancer of communalism and fundamentalism effectively, during the most difficult times, he made tremendous contributions. This is a fact widely acknowledged. Though innumerable hurdles are being faced by the Left Front Government in the field of industrial is at ion, new initiatives are being taken towards mobilising resources and encouraging investments from various sources. In this entire process the bold lead given by Com. Jyoti Basu, within the framework of the democratic movement, is generating widespread interest. Often this is being wrongly portrayed as the carbon copy of the economic policies of the Central Government.
The facts however speak something different. As has been explained many times by Com. Jyoti Basu himself, the Left Front upholds the interests of the workers utmost and as and when some State Public Sector Undertakings/are faced with the' task of revival the problem of there work-force, would be given top most priority and the rehabilitation of the employees and workers would be the first task of the Left Front Government in case of necessity.
One often observes that State Sector Undertakings are being handed over to private hands by the Congress (1) Central Government and many other non-left-non Congress (1) State Governments. This certainly is an irresponsible move. As opposed to this, in so far as new industries are concerned, the Left Front Government is trying to get investment from private sources from within and without, and as regards to MNCs they have been asked to participate in joint ventures, that too on the basis of the Left Front Government identifying the areas of investment and the technological tie-up suitable for that. It goes without saying that in the given circumstances this is the only viable approach available for the industrialisation of the State which has been cruely neglected for decades together due to the unfriendly and often hostile attitude of the Centre.
The Left Front Government under Com. Jyoti Basu however keeps the interests of the working class and the toiling masses upper most in their scheme of things when this new policy is vigorously pursued. There is no doubt that more and more sections of people through out the length and breadth of our country would appreciate the qualitatively different approach and glorious track record of the Left Front Government of West Bengal, with regard to its performance in various fields inspite of all the drastic limitations.
Under the most inspiring leadership of Com. Jyoti Basu the State of West Bengal is emerging as a model alternative for the entire country. In the whole process it is certain that the immense contribution of Com. Jyoti Basu, as the main inspirer and moving .spirit in the unique experiment would be recorded by the current commentators as well as by history. Therefore it can be stated without any hesitation that Com. Jyoti Basu, through his remarkable work and shining life, has already carved out his place in history along with the great sons of our country such as Vidyasagar, Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Tagore,Deshabandhu C. R. Das, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Satyajit Ray