Monday, January 18, 2010

The man who said no to a PM's post

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

CPM patriarch Comrade Jyoti Basu is no more and his well wishers and supporters mourn his death. If for them he was no less than a messiah there is a certain section of the Bengali society who grew up criticising his policies he was a villain. But his death saw a trend which is hardly seen in Indian politics. From friends to foes all visited an ailing Jyoti Basu better known as Jyoti Babu at the hospital. On January 17, 2010 when the nation heard the news of his demise cutting across party lines leaders paid him tribute to one of post Independence India's most powerful and influential leaders.

There is no denying the fact that Jyoti Basu's hurt the educated middle class people from West Bengal in a unprecedented manner. West Bengal once India's shining economic model suddenly turned into what not to do in business and industrialisation. Left's opposition to education in the English medium cost the youth of the state hard who failed to find employment opportunities in the IT and the ITES sectors. The absence of industries and employment meant that West Bengal saw one of India's largest brain drains within the country.

But there was one instance in history for which Jyoti Basu would be respected for years to come and that was his decision to say NO to the Prime Minister's Office as that was mandate in his party. Jyoti Basu was not a by-product of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), he was the party himself. Had he not respected the mandate of his party leaders, there was very little that could have stopped him from becoming the PM. But it was perhaps a decision only Jyoti Basu could take putting party before self ambitions.

Had Basu become the PM it would have been a historic moment not in India but in the context of Global Communism. The PM of the largest democracy having Leftist background would have definitely had fired in a new zeal of life into the dwindling ideology. Basu could have easily become the Stalin or the Mao of the new millennium. So when Basu termed it his party's decision in 1996 as a 'Historic Blunder' he wasn't referring to his personal ambition of missing out the top job in the country.

Had Basu been the Prime Minister than, Sitaram Kesri would not have had the courage to pull down the United Front Government as he did twice, once in 1997 with Deve Gowda and than again in 1998 with IK Gujaral. Gowda and Gujaral were no match for Basu's towering image. So it was very much likely that Jyoti Basu would have pulled off the first Non-Congress government at the centre to last it's full term, a honour that later went of another towering politician Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Jyoti Basu was no accidental politician but a politician out of choice. He followed his own conviction to become a trade union leader. A tag of St Xavier's School and Presidency College in pre independence India was equivalent to an IIT plus IIM today. Add to that a law degree from London School Of Economics and Basu could have gone high up in bureaucracy. He rather chose to fight for ideology and poor people. He represented a class which he was aloof from being the son of an US returned Doctor.

Jyoti Basu's legacy will always be debated and he will be criticised by many but one fact is true about this man, he was a staunch idealist and believed in what he did till his last day. He could have become a PM if he had wanted but he kept party above self greed. This is one precedent perhaps some of most successful politicians will find hard to emulate.


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