Its the man and man alone, who creates history. Despite many crest and thrust, people will finally emerge victorious and go in freedom in a classless society free from exploitation of any form. – Comrade Jyoti Basu
Born on 8 July, 1914 as Jyotirindra Basu into an upper middle-class Bengali family at 43/1 Harrison Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) in Calcutta, parented by Dr.Nishikanta Basu & Smt. Hemalata Basu, Jyotirindra belonged to the era of the intellectual Bengali gentleman discarding his wealth and groping for the realization of an impossible dream, that of a classless Communist India, others being the lot of Bhupesh Gupta, Indrajit Gupta, Syed Mansoor Habibullah; throwing away an inheritance and infusing Marx, Lenin and Engels into their romantic lives. Affectionately called as “Gana”, Basu’s schooling started at Loreto School at Dharmatala, Calcutta (now Kolkata), in 1920. It was there where his father shortened his name and he became Jyoti Basu. However, he was moved to St. Xavier’s School in 1925. Basu completed his undergraduate education and received the honours in English from the Hindu College (renamed the Presidency College in 1855).
It was in the land of the Great Britain that Marxism touched Gana’s heart, ironically, through a Britisher of mixed (half Punjabi) parentage, Rajani Palme Dutta, who introduced him to the texts of Marx. After becoming a Barrister, Basu subsequently joined India League and London Majlis, through which he encouraged Indian students in the UK to join their country’s freedom struggle. Through the Majlis, he arranged meetings of Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru and Subas Bose to the helm of the Labour Party leadership. His strong belief in Communism even brought him close to the heels of becoming a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, but he ultimately went back to India and joined the Communist Party of India.
On Jan 20, 1940, he married Smt. Basanti (Chabi) Ghosh. On May 11, 1942, Mrs Basanti Basu breadth her last. Her death was a great shock to Basu’s mother who passed away a few months later. Basu married Kamal Basu on Dec 5, 1948. She gave birth to a girl child on Aug 31, 1951 at Sishumangal Hospital. Few days later the baby died of diarrhoea and dehydration. She gave birth to her Khoka, who is now known as Chandan in 1952, after they lost a baby girl to diarrhoea in 1951.
Despite family opposition, Basu joined the CPI and remained a “briefless barrister’’, spearheading the railwaymen’s trade union and building the CITU in a significant way in West Bengal. Beside organising the movements of the Railway Labourers, he led a movement by the teachers demanding a hike in salary. Basu received tremendous support from Bengal’s tallest politician of that era. Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, who mentored a little known Basu in the same way as Nehru had once raved about a new Opposition politician called Atal Behari Vajpayee. When the Communist Party of India split in 1964, Comrade Basu became one of the first nine members of the Politburo of the newly-formed Communist Party of India (Marxist).
After 2 brief stints as the Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal in 1967 and 1969, he finally rose to become the First Communist Chief Minister of West Bengal, and remained so for a record 23 yrs from June 21, 1977 to November 6, 2000 when he resigned citing health reasons, and was succeeded by fellow CPI(M) politician, Comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who is the incumbent CM of Bengal till date. As of now, Gana holds the record for being the longest-serving Chief Minister in Indian political history.
A great moment came in his life during 1996. Comrade Jyoti Basu was on the doorsteps of becoming the consensus leader of the United Front for the post of Prime Minister of India. However, the CPI(M) Politburo later decided not to participate in the government, a decision that Comrade Jyoti Basu later termed a historic blunder. Had he been sworn-in instead of Mr. H. D. Dewe Gowda of the Janta Dal, India would have earned a rare place in History for being the only democratic Country led by a Communist Prime Minister.
Besides his mainstream political activities, Comrade Basu was also elected Secretary of Friends of Soviet Union (FSU) and Anti-Fascist Writers and Artists Association. He also travelled different parts of the World representing party or CITU. Some times he travelled specially the Western world in search of investment in West Bengal.
Its an unquestionable fact that Comrade Jyoti Basu was the Mikhail Gorbachev of Indian Communism. He united rural Bengal to the cause of socialistic principles in a manner that none can ever hope to equal. He was a statesman amongst politicians and a democrat amongst Communists. Under his affluent yet humble leadership the Communist Party of India grew at Bamboo’s rate, making the state of West Bengal as its unconquerable Fort Knox. His admirers will insist that Basu’s was probably the most liberal face among Communists on Earth. His critics will lash out at him saying that the Country’s longest-reigning Chief Minister was a failure, saying in the end he did nothing for Bengal. But in my humble yet politically-nonpartisan point of view he did a lot for India: for the country’s secularism, Left consciousness, political equilibrium, ethnic relations and, in general, for democratic well-being. A man of diminutive physical stature, Jyoti Basu made his place among the tallest statesmen of the country.
With CPI(M) in its declining phase, with West Bengal slipping out of its hand, the loss of its only stalwart leader only means a heavy loss to Communism in India. With the departure of this great Comrade, our great land has lost a great son into the great eternity of History. Comrade Basu will be remembered for his personality, his dedication, his contribution and his unfailing devotion to the cause that today finds few takers both among politicians as well as the public at large. Even after his retirement as Chief Minister, he remained politically active as a CPM Politburo member. “Communists never retire”, he said, and till the end, showed that he meant that in letter and spirit. He was truly the Last Red Stalwart. May the path to his perpetual home be easy and may his Soul rest in peace. Amen. Adieu Comrade Jyoti Basu.