(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
Jyoti Basu: A Life Sketch
Jyoti Basu was born on July 8, 1914 at
Kolkata. His father, Nishikanta Basu, and mother, Hemlata Devi, lived
Kolkata though their ancestral home was in village Bardi in Dhaka.
Nishikanta Basu was an eminent homeopath doctor. Jyoti Basu spent his
in Kolkata, mostly in their house in Hindustan
Park in South
Kolkata, where he lived the most part of his life too.
Basu passed his Senior Cambridge and
Intermediate from St Xaviers’ school and later was admitted to the Presidency College with Honours in English.
not an active political family, Basu’s father was supportive of the
struggle. While in school, Basu was inspired by the Chittagong armed rebellion led by
1935, Basu went to England
to study law. In a volatile
international situation, during his university days, his political
were shaped in ideological debates against fascism. Basu became an
member of the India League, a body of Indian students, led by V K
Menon. Among others, Bhupesh Gupta and Snehangshukanta Acharya were his
in student days. Jyoti Basu gradually came into contact with leaders of
Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). He began to participate in the
study circles and joined in the activities of the communist groups in London, Oxford
He came in
close contact with Harry Pollit, Rajni Palme Dutt, Ben Bradley and
leaders of the CPGB. They had a great influencing role in shaping the
life of young Basu. Jyoti Basu became the first secretary of London
association of Indians. They felicitated Jawharlal Nehru in London. Basu
decided that he would join the
Communist Party after returning to India.
returned to India
in 1940 and immediately
contacted the party leaders. Though he enrolled himself as a barrister
Calcutta High Court, he never practised simply because he was
become a wholetimer of the party.
became the secretary of Friends of Soviet
Union and Anti-Fascist Writers’ Association in Kolkata. As member of
the initial task of Basu was to maintain liaison with underground party
leaders. He was entrusted responsibilities in the trade union front
In that year, Bengal Assam Railroad Workers’ Union
was formed and Basu became its first secretary. Basu was elected to the
Provincial Assembly in 1946 from the railway workers constituency.
Bramhan and Rupnarayan Roy were the other two communists who were
that day on, Basu became one of the most popular and influential
for decades to come. He showed how the communists can use the
forums for strengthening struggles.
played a very active role in stormy days of
1946-47 when Bengal witnessed the
movement, workers’ strikes and even communal riots. Everywhere the
people found Basu by their side.
Basu was the secretary of the West Bengal
provincial committee of the party from 1953
to January 1961. He was elected to the Central Committee of the party
He was a member of the Polit Bureau from 1964 onwards. He was elected
special invitee to the Polit Bureau by the 19th congress of the party
the country gained independence, he was
elected to the assembly from Baranagar in 1952. He
was elected to the West Bengal
legislative assembly in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971,
1977, 1982, 1987, 1991 and 1996. Though an elected member, Basu was
several times during the 1950s and 1960s, and for certain periods he
underground to evade arrest by the police.
1962, Jyoti Basu was one amongst the 32
members of the National Council who walked out of its meeting. When the
was formed in 1964 as a result of the ideological struggle within the
movement, Basu became a member of the Polit Bureau. He was, in fact,
surviving member of the “Navaratnas,” the nine members of the first
the days of the India-China border
conflict, Basu and other leaders of the party were accused of being the
and faced attacks from the ruling class parties and the anti-communist
1967, Basu became the deputy chief minister in
the first United Front ministry, and again in 1969. These two
provided a great stimulus in unleashing the mass and class struggles in
West Bengal. Jyoti Basu played an
important role in
intertwining the struggle and running the government. In 1970, he
escaped an assassination attempt at the Patna
railway station, organised by the Anandmargis. In 1971, Basu’s car and
meeting were attacked by Congress miscreants at least twice. Though the
became the single largest party in the assembly elections in 1971, it
refused the chance to form a ministry and president’s rule was imposed
in West Bengal. The 1972 elections
were rigged and the party
was forced to boycott the elections. Basu famously declared the new
“assembly of the frauds” and the CPI(M) boycotted the assembly for the
five years. West Bengal faced severe
repression and terror during the semi-fascist Congress regime in this
The CPI(M) and the Left forces courageously fought the onslaught, and
one of the leading figures of that heroic resistance by the people.
1977, the Left Front government was formed as
a product of the democratic and mass struggles, and Basu became the
minister. He was 63 then. A new, vigorous era in his life began. The
announcement by Basu after he was sworn in, was that the government
be run from Writers’ Building alone; the people would be very much part
Under Basu’s leadership, the Left Front government initiated far
measures in the interests of toiling people. The land reforms,
through panchayats, guaranteeing trade union rights of the workers,
widespread relief to different sections of the society, spread of
marked a radical departure in governance in our country. Under the Left
government, West Bengal witnessed
advancement in agriculture and later it was under his leadership that
government took serious initiative in industrialisation of the state.
continuously for 24 years, Basu was the longest serving chief minister
of the major contributions of Basu as the
chief minister was to raise the issue of centre-state relations at the
level. On the one hand, Basu led the struggle against discrimination
against West Bengal and successfully
built the Haldia petrochemicals
complex, Bakreswar thermal power station etc. On the other hand, he
mobilise other state governments and various political parties on the
Basu played a significant role in national
politics and his intervention at important junctures proved to be
played a prominent role in mobilising the anti-Congress secular
forces during the regimes of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha
also played an important role in mobilising the secular forces against
communal BJP. In 1996, his name was proposed by the secular allies for
prime ministership. But the CPI(M) Central Committee decided to support
government from outside.
Basu was one of the main campaigners for
the party at the national level. He visited all the states and areas a
of times to address public meetings and rallies. He was particular
attending the open sessions of the CITU’s all-India conferences.
was all along associated with the trade
union movement and was a champion of the cause of working class. He was
president of the CITU since its inception in 1970.
November 2000, Basu voluntarily retired from the
chief ministership but he continued to lead the party in West Bengal. Despite his ill health, Basu
participated in party
meetings and in election campaign in 2006 also.
wife Kamal Basu died some years ago. He
is survived by his only son Chandan and three grandchildren.