Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jyoti Basu's legacy is worth a debate

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee


There are two breeds of politicians, one who rule a state or a nation and the second who change it's fate. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu belonged to the rare second breed. It is not too often in India that a leader is unchallenged for decades but Comrade Basu is perhaps the only leader in the country to have held his chair for two decades virtually unopposed. Even the towering Gandhis cannot claim such a feat. Basu virtually never saw a low in his political career after taking on as the Chief Minister in 1977.

A testament to his towering image came to light in the last few days of his life when leaders from across party lines visited the Communist patriarch who lay on his death bed. Such gestures are not common in Indian politics anymore when mudslinging and abuses is the order of the day. The exorbitant courage of his conviction can be understood from the fact that he rejected the post of the Prime Minister as his party did not want it. Honoring party's mandate came first for Jyoti Basu who was not a byproduct of the party by the party himself.

In his hay days Comrade Jyoti Basu stood like a pillar which did not show an iota of tremor even when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi tried to shatter the Left out of West Bengal. The politics of the state seemed to be insulated from the national political fever and Basu was instrumental in building this insulation. It would have been interesting to see what would Jyoti Basu have been as the Prime Minister after almost making it to 7, Race Course Road in 1996 only to be denied a swearing in by his own party. Basu later termed it as a historical blunder.

When in 2000, Basu decided to call it quits with active politics he had already served 23 years as the Chief Minister of one of India's most politically active states. A testament to his success can be measured from the fact that he served five consecutive terms as Chief Minister unopposed. His decision to leave the chair and pass it on to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was more like a seasoned batsman retiring hurt after getting tired with his long innings. Idealist to the core, Jyoti Basu symbolised what Indian Communism is, having been a member of the Politburo from the time of the party's founding in 1964 to 2008.

Jyotirindra Basu, the third child of Dr. Nisikanta Basu and Smt. Hemlata Basu born on July 8, 1914 wrote the modern history of Bengal. In the two and half decades of his tenure as the Chief Minister, Basu changed the entire image of Bengal. If the industrial image of the state took a huge beating there was cheers from the poor agricultural community who benefited from Left's Land Reforms and shared cropping. Today, even though Bengal might not be as industrialised as Maharashtra but there are no farmer suicides in Bengal either as in Maharsahtra. So the Left rule and Basu's legacy studied only from an urban perspective might not reveal a true picture.

If his life of staunch communism is a case study in Indian politics his political legacy is debatable. For a poor farmer in a remote area of Bengal, Comrade Basu might have been a messiah who freed him from the clutches of landlords while for an educated middle class youth from urban Bengal, Basu might be a villain who managed to push the once flourishing state into the dark ages. Basu's life remains a chapter of personal conviction where there is no single truth. He was a messiah to some and a villain to others. A fact that stands out is Basu changed the fate of Bengal and his political career has no parallels in India.

3 comments:

arghya January 18, 2010 at 10:10 AM  

Why do god take away such a gr8 man from our Lives....
We Will miss u comrade...
Long Live "Jyoti Babu"

Subhadeep Bhattacharjee January 18, 2010 at 11:09 AM  

He was 96 and he was a human being 2.....and moreover he was no god...he did harm the educated middle class driving them out of the State

My CM (Rajashekar Reddy) January 18, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

Red Selute commrade.We miss you.We miss the greate leader of our nation.We ill follows ur path & we i'll continue ur thoughts & ur dreams.

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