Jyoti Basu : A Legend In His Lifetime


As the country celebrates Birth centenary of the patriarch of the Left movement, Dipayan Datta takes a glance at the life of one of Independent India’s most popular political figures.

Jyoti Basu, the age old patriarch of communism in India, was one of those leaders who transcended the ideological and was able to establish himself as one of India’s most respected political figures. For Communism to survive in India, the left movement will always, from time to time, need leaders like Jyoti Basu.

One of the most adored statesman with a seven-decade long political career, Jyoti Basu evolved into a role model for politics. He could easily have been our PM but for the ideological reservations (historic blunder) of people like Prakash Karat, a nondescript HD Devegouda got the coveted post.

During the Sikh riots or the Babri demolition no neta handled the emotionally charged situations better than Jyoti Basu. A socialist democrat & true paragon of secularism that he was, no incidents of riots were ever reported from West Bengal during his 23 year long tenure.

Jyoti Basu, right or wrong made CPM and the communist ideology acceptable in a democracy like India. While taking office in 1977, Basu had said “We must be content to make whatever small improvements we can in the lives of the poor people, to make life more live able”. During Basu’s rule rural poverty declined significantly in Bengal. However, as the power of the left started to rise its economic outlook even for the poor became more and more stringent. Although not a communist state, West Bengal stated to develop all the Characteristics that epitomize a communist state. The difference between the State and the party did not exist in West Bengal. Not only politically but Bengal by 1990 reached a level of economic stagnation. As the agricultural output reached stagnation, discontent with the left started to take root in the house holds of small and marginal farmers of the state. Basu would also be criticized for the continuous industrial decline during the CPM rule in Bengal. His communist centered economic policies resulted into a rise in the urban poverty headcount & a steep decline in manufacturing industry and steps like the removal of English from primary schools led to unemployment & emigration. Such points do deserve contempt but at the same time his idea of social harmony, secularism, integrity & probity is worth emulating by today’s politicians. He had a persona and charisma that overcame political difference. He was one of those few leaders whose acceptability surmounted party politics. Very few Indian politicians have been Leaders in the sense that Jyoti Basu was..!!


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