People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 29

July 22, 2007

We Have A Long Way To Go: Jyoti Basu


Jyoti Basu being felicitated in a ceremony organised by KMC in Kolkata


B Prasant


RESPONDING to a packed Town Hall civic reception programme in Kolkata recently, veteran communist leader and former chief minister of Bengal, Jyoti Basu noted that ‘we have a long way to go since we have a lot more to do for the mass of the people even within the present capitalist system that prevails in India.’


Jyoti Basu was feted for his political contributions of a career stretching over 60 long years, years filled with events and developments of historical importance. Jyoti Basu pointed that by felicitating him, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) was celebrating the political contributions made by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to which he belonged.


A unique and pro-people feature of the Left Front government of Bengal was that it had sought always to keep the promises it would make. The LF government has virtually re-created the panchayat system, provided for reserved seats for women in various bodies, distributed land among the rural poor and the landless, and contributed in substantial ways towards making the state self-sufficient in food through increasing agricultural production.




The state tops the national list for agricultural production, said Jyoti Basu and he went on to say that, “we shall now endeavour to build up a solid industrial base as well.” The LF government was always loath to taking over multi-crop land for industrial purposes. When land is acquired, pointed out the nonagenarian communist leader, more-than-adequate compensation always comes forth from the pro-poor LF government. “I have seen the list of people in receipt of compensation in Singur where an automobile factory is coming up, and I say strongly that nowhere in India such a pro-people system of compensation is in operation,” said Jyoti Basu.


Drawing up pieces of history from his memory, Jyoti Basu recalled how the first communist government in Kerala led by E M S Namboodiripad had made him see a glimmer of hope for the country, and how he had raised the issue, with the then Bengal chief minister Dr B C Roy, of the anti-people drive by the then Congress-led union government to topple the democratically-elected government.


Citing an example from the political annals of Bengal, Jyoti Basu said that in 1971 the CPI(M) had prevented the so-called ‘Indira wave’ from entering the political portals of Bengal come the elections. The CPI(M) emerged as the single largest group in the assembly polls. However, the CPI(M) found itself opposed not only by the Congress but by some Left parties as well. “When I went to the governor and claimed to form a government, he showed me the letter of opposition of the Congress and of some Left parties. I said to him that a majority is not tested in a drawing room but on the floor of the assembly and that this should be done as early as is possible”, recalled Jyoti Basu. However, the governor refused to convene the assembly and never gave CPI(M) a chance to form a government.


Jyoti Basu continued to say that the rigged elections of 1972 left the CPI(M) bloodied and maimed “with combined armed attacks being launched against us by the Congress and the police.” The CPI(M) has had to face repression and torture but it had never wavered away from the path of struggles and movements, always taking the mass of the people along. Back in 1959, the police under a Congress government had attacked the food movement marches and had killed many people by beating them to pulps. The marchers had called for food, and they had not come to attack the Writers’ Buildings as one opposition party leadership did much later.




Relentlessly critical of an “irresponsible opposition that would not bother about accountability to the electorate,” Jyoti Basu said that the “Trinamul Congress leader Mamata [Banerjee] spoke to me about the compensation package for those whose land had been acquired. I had advised her to talk to the state LF government. However, what she told me was this: the present chief minister must first resign. Can a responsible political party ever say such things?” was how Jyoti Basu would put it.


Jyoti Basu recalled how in the past when he was the chief minister he had proposed to the Congress leadership (that included Mamata Banerjee) to accompany an all-party delegation to the prime minister to call for the approval of the Haldia petro-chemical project, Mamata and others had virulently objected and had turned the proposal down. “This is the kind of mindset they had, and they still do,” Jyoti Basu said. On the other hand the CPI(M) in opposition during the time when Dr B C Roy was the chief minister had not opposed industrial projects but had insisted that the industrial units must give the workers trade union rights and the right to strike work, he pointed out. The Party had recommended many a proposal in the interest of Bengal to the chief minister for his forwarding them to the prime minister.


Jyoti Basu also pointed out that at the same time, one must listen patiently to critiques of the Left Front government, and appropriate measures taken because “not all who oppose us are anti-industry, and anti-social in nature.” Jyoti Basu also called for further consolidation of the unity and integrity of the Bengal Left Front and underlined that the state government was a Left Front government and not a CPI(M) government. Those who conspire to pull the Left Front apart would not survive it themselves, warned Jyoti Basu.


The felicitation ceremony saw the presence of state secretary of the CPI(M) and Bengal Left Front chairman, Biman Basu, Kolkata mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, KMC chairman Nirmal Mukherjee, Bengal assembly speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, and other dignitaries.