Jyoti Basu – poster boy of Indian communism

January 8, 2010

(UPDATE: Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu died on Sunday)

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rushed to Kolkata on Thursday just to pay a 22-minute visit to the hospital where 95-year-old Jyoti Basu is battling for life, the trip spoke volumes about the communist patriarch’s relevance in Indian politics.

Veteran communist leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, is seen during his 95th birthday celebrations in Kolkata July 8, 2008. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/FilesIndia’s longest serving chief minister is on ventilator support but the throngs of teary-eyed followers outside the hospital, the 24×7 mediapersons camping outside and the steady stream of political dignitaries indicate the respect Basu commands across the political spectrum.

The Prime Minister offered to fly in experts from anywhere in India to treat Basu.

A day later, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda also visited the ailing leader in Kolkata.

“I remember what Jyoti Basu has sacrificed. He made me the prime minister of this country,” Gowda told reporters recalling the political stalemate in 1996.

In May 1996, Basu, then firmly in the saddle as the longest serving chief minister of West Bengal, was on the verge of becoming India’s first communist prime minister as a consensus choice amid political chicanery.

The United Front government, comprising the Left Front and the National Front, wanted him as its leader, but Basu’s own party puritans would not allow him to accept the post.

Thus, India missed its first communist prime minister.

Basu himself had later dubbed the episode as a “historic blunder” and referred to it in a biography by Surabhi Banerjee.

“I was constantly being coaxed into accepting the key post. I was simply waiting for the party’s stand now. I was inclined to accept the onerous but unanimous offer for the credibility of the Third Front and secondly for solving the stalemate.”

In November 2000, Basu voluntarily stepped down as the chief minister of West Bengal, paving the way for his deputy Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to take over.

Basu, even in reclusion forced by failing health, remains the poster boy of Indian communism. Till recently he was a crowd-puller in election campaigns.

The anxiety of his followers, the tears, the flurry of media activities outside the hospital and the air-dashing political royalty, mainly those from rival political outfits, vouch for it.


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everything is okk….but the man has pushed back the state of West Bengal at least 30 years back….we are suffering it and our next generation will suffer too….he might be a very good politician but not as a chief minister….he is a failure in himself as an institution as his party claims and as a mentor of the state too….we trusted him he bereaved us….we pray for his life but not as a leader like him….

Posted by Sangita | Report as abusive

Jyoti basu used communist party to gain power.He never served people belong to his own constitutency from where he was elected several times. He always used his charisma for his personal use and set aside common agenda. Perhaps he is the biggest “hypocrite” of the indina politics observed.

Posted by akg | Report as abusive

Regardless of whether or not you support Jyoti Basu’s politics, in today’s India where politicians are so power-hungry and corrupt, we don’t see someone who would sacrifice the all-important position of prime minister on political ideology and collective decisions. I wish the so-called Gandhi’ite Congress leaders were like that. (Please don’t compare him with Sonia Gandhi.)

Posted by BanerjeeNYC | Report as abusive

there are people who are blaming jyoti basu for pushing WB 30 years back .. we see it here also. if you see who blames government, if you see who blames jyoti base, IT’S people who are unsuccessful personally, frustrated due to failure in their attempts that they made with their low Mediocre talent. single person jyoti basu or whoever cannot decide or spoil your future/career dear. kindly look at your profile, are you competent enough to fight in today’s world? is your family background strong enough to help there? it’s NO. So .. don’t blame others for your failure.

the day when mr basu breaths his last, india is going to lose another true genuine “adarshbaadi” (hope correct bengali) commrade. red salute sir. get well soon. our eyes are filled with tears today.

Posted by subho_msm | Report as abusive

There are people who are successfull enough to criticise Jyoti Basu’s political strategies….they have the level of intellegence to argue with the political decisions taken by Basu and his part allies, that is because those people have seen him closely, his offences and defences set by him, have also been able to go out of west bengal based out his or er own credibilities, parental support and have bagged a prestigious position nationally and perhaps internationally….but being the part of the democracy this is every India’s Right to Criticise (i guess people would be intellegent enough to understand the phrases am using) the leadership credebilities and functionalities….those people who are confident enough will only be able to criticise leaders….the leaders wil have to withstand that….this is no personal confrontation….but i guess Basu and his party have been able to produce a bunch of uneducated and unemployed youths who can only spend their enough leisure time to only chant the party’s slogans….they dont even understand what is success in true sense and what is the meaning of failure….they are not educate enough to underline the difference….thats what Basu wanted and he did it….this single agenda helped the party to rule the state for 30 years….but now not in the future terms anymore….

Posted by Sangita | Report as abusive

i was talking about mass .. and not of u or me or privileged few who can type english (incorrect spellings courtesy mr basu who didn’t teach us english from class nursery), who very easily ‘even’ understand what success actully is. understanding success is so easy, still ‘they’ don’t understand … mr basu shuld have taught that. alas! kindly remember govt is as good as its people – u just cannot stay for 30 long years! mistakes are there to be made; learning is a process & not destination. time is changing, so are requirements – one just cannot compare blore or hyd with kolkata only with their recent IT related developments!. if i say it’s because of bengalis attitude that’s responsible? i (& am sure many others) who left kol long back.. for that matter india long back want to settle back in kol …. remember gandhi.. b the change u want to see. don’t throw mud just because u r standing in it urself. let us try? not for kol alone .. for india as well. the best billion $ projects are not in india, how much u flatter .. how much u earn, how much u drive octavia! .. u r world 3!

one don’t need to be ‘successfull’ to ‘criticise’ stalwart like basu, u just need freedom of speech, just what u and me still have: was wondering why is it still not lost amidst so much of sontrash!.

Posted by subho_msm | Report as abusive

It is very easy to pick on Basu simply because he led the state for 22 years..Most people here (with little background in history) are blaming Basu for the decline of Bengal.

The reality is that the decline of Bengal started much earlier and there is no single event that solely contributed to it. The industrial curve was always going down, even during B.C. Roy’s era.

Depending upon how much back you want to go, you can cite numerous events that triggered the decline.

-Shift of capital in 1911
-Riots and refugee influx in 1947
-The unrest of the 1970s

Several authors like Nabanita Debsen (first wife of Amartya Sen) and Ranajit Ray (ref: “Agonies of West Bengal”) wrote extensively on the subject.

Those who think Bengal was a land of gold before Basu should watch Satyajit Ray’s “Mahanagar”, “Jana Aranya” and “Seemabaddha”, all of which were filmed before Basu’s reign.

Basu’s biggest failure was that he could not stem the decline though like Obama he made huge promises to do so.. In fact, the decline accelerated owing to some wrong policies on his behalf..

All said and done, he was one of the last surviving “bhadralok politicians” country saw.. Every single PM from Indira Gandhi to Vajpayee used to seek his advice on important policy matters…There is a good reason why everyone is flocking to see him. I do not know how many of us would be that fortunate in our deathbed.

Posted by duttdip | Report as abusive

I respect Mr. Jyoti Basu I am showing my condolence on his death, as he was the CM of our state, .he was a Gentleman-politician. He was a great leader from the point of the CPM party. What i have understood about him and his party- I found a similarity between BJP and CPM is they both wanted to have power through political movements , there is no wrong for a political party wanting powers. the means by which they wanted power and grabbed it , are wrong. BJP grabbed it on the issue of Ram Janmao Bhumi and CPM did it by doing politics with ‘sarbahara people’i.e. refugees coming from Bangladesh and the farmers whom they did some benefits by land reforming. And the secret of having been in power just making the people fool saying ” if the congress come they will kill people as they did On the leadership of Mr. Siddhartha Sankar Roy(then CM of WB)”. actully this is the mis truth they used to be in power for years. As acitizen we wanted development and progress of the state and the country. on the views of rotten Marxism they never thought about industry- as it requires ‘capital’. and capital does not come from tree, that was absolutely not practil and the state dwellers could not do any thing
as there machinery (CPM party cadres)was so strong. So end of Jyoti Basu would be a great loss of his party not the society and the country.

Posted by Amitesh-Pintu | Report as abusive

biggest problem is jyotibabu didn’t get a state where we could work for people like us. he got a state where he worked for people who don’t have that power to electronically type and post in forums, talk in national news channels !!!. and those are not few in number.

this fight would have been meaningful if we can hear from them for whom jyotibabu worked. then only we can conclude whether it’s a loss for society or just party!.

sad to see, we don’t realize what we have today, what we got and what we can build on top of it. when i was in school, used to go 4 kms with my dad in cycle – then a scooter, today i reached a level when i think of buying the next high end car that ford will launch in india once i’m back. cycle to scooter to car. good to see we “aatmaghati bangali” are thinking big. the unnoticed part of development is done by jyoti basu – as he was the guardian of the state for 30+ long years! that’s why entire nation mourns, our old cm mr. ray, our finance mins mr mukherjee’s eyes are filled with tears – they have seen the human mass development who moved from long bare foot walk to cycle to scooter. wait young G, u’ll have the car as well —- jyoti babu’s bengal will grow with rapid pace. He’s done the actual work which many of new generation, sadly will never realize (he took little longer that I admit – but it’s not easy to understand the constraints probably).

I want to conclude my thoughts here. In the world were God, son of God is criticized – I think God Jesus was also not spared, we know how Sita had to end her life in Ramayana , many others … Jyotibabu is no one !. He’s a comrade, a true parliamentarian, a true people’s man … a true statesman whom all leaders across political barrier, all artist minds across india pays homage to. How much you blame him … how much you ignore, today Bengal is “pitrihara”.

Posted by subho_msm | Report as abusive

Communist states may have several legal political parties, but the communist party is usually granted a special or dominant role in government,[1] often by statute or under the constitution.


Posted by SteveHalennss | Report as abusive