People's Democracy

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


No. 47

November 24, 2013





Convention Remembers Comrade Jyoti Basu


M Girija


COMMEMORATING the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a great communist leader, the Coimbatore district committee of the CPI(M) organised a convention on November 18, with the party’s general secretary, Prakash Karat, delivering the main address. While celebrating the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, Karat said, we should draw lessons from the life and work of this great revolutionary. India has seen many communist leaders who made great contributions and sacrifices. But Comrade Jyoti Basu was one of the few leaders who stand tall among them. He spent 70 years in the communist movement. He joined the Communist Party in 1940 and passed into history in 2010. In these seven decades of communist life, this great leader made very significant and pioneering contributions. He returned from London as a barrister but began to work as a trade union functionary among the railway workers in Bengal, becoming the secretary of the railway workers’ union of Bengal. Though he was the chief minister of West Bengal for about three decades, he had his association with the trade union movement intact, and remained a leader of the CITU till the end.




The second major contribution of Comrade Basu was in legislative sphere. He got elected to the Bengal Assembly in 1946, before independence, from the railway workers’ constituency. From 1946 to 2010, except for a period of five years following the rigged elections in West Bengal in 1972, he remained a member of the West Bengal assembly, and showed how a communist should function in a legislature. While he was a leader of the opposition, he led many struggles and echoed the voices of struggling workers and others inside the assembly. In all the major struggles, Comrade Basu made it a point to personally lead them, both within and outside the legislature. Once he stayed inside the premises of the assembly for three days lest the police should arrest him, in case he came out, for leading the teachers’ struggle.


When he became the chief minister of West Bengal in 1977, we saw how he carried forward the land reforms there. After being a part of continuous struggles when he was the deputy chief minister in United Front government earlier, he told the peasants and Kisan Sabha members to go and occupy the lands the landlords were holding illegally. Through this combination of outside struggles and legislative action, Jyoti Basu showed the way as to how communists could utilise such avenues. Between 1967 and 1969, when he was the home minister of West Bengal, he told the police would not interfere with any strike conducted by workers, nor it would be used to stop the peasants from occupying the surplus lands in landlords’ illegal possession. His lasting legacy as the chief minister of Left Front government is of the land reforms that were implemented in Bengal, when 11 lakh acres of surplus land were taken over and distributed among the landless farmers and 1.5 crore tenants got security of tenure by registration.


Karat further said: “History will also remember him as a leader who was most consistent in the defence of secularism. Everyone knows that after the assassination of Smt Indira Gandhi in 1984, Sikhs were killed in thousands in the whole of North India. But Comrade Basu did not allow a single attack on the Sikh community in Calcutta or West Bengal. Similarly, in the 1990s, when communal forces began the movement for Ram temple in Ayodhya and communal riots broke out all over the country after Advani’s rathyatra, Jyoti Basu said not a single person would be allowed to be attacked in West Bengal, and that he was ready to invite the army if necessary.” Comrade Basu was not only a communist leader; he was a symbol of the Left, democratic and secular forces in our country. That is why today, when we are observing his birth centenary, we must pledge to continue to uphold the values, principles, politics and ideologies which he represented, Karat added.    


Speaking on the current politics, Karat said today in our country we have a government which is following policies that are causing great sufferings and distress to the people of the country. In this context, he touched upon issues like the excruciating and unabated price rise, especially in case of food items and other essentials; favours being meted out to the big capitalists and foreign multinationals; agrarian crisis and the farmers’ sufferings, rising unemployment etc, with education, housing, healthcare etc all going beyond the reach of the common man. Unless we are able to reverse these harmful neo-liberal and anti-people policies being pursued by the UPA government, there can be no real relief and no real development and progress for the people of our country. “That is why the CPI(M) and other Left parties have put forth alternative policies,” Karat added. 


In the context of the Lok Sabha elections which are nearing, Karat also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party which claims to be an alternative to the UPA and the Congress, while Narendra Modi is going around the country posing as if he is already the prime minister elect of the country. But, Karat said, the BJP is not a whit different from the Congress in terms of policies, and that we have seen in practice, e.g. in the BJP’s support to the UPA government on the issue of banking laws, privatisation of the pension funds etc.


Karat further said if the BJP today, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, is claiming to be better than the Congress, it is better in only one way --- Narendra Modi is a more ardent and vigorous supporter of the big business houses of our country. They talk about the Gujarat model of development for the country. But what does the Gujarat model mean?  Under Modi, all the big business houses – from Ambanis to the Tatas, Essars, Adanis –have been given huge concessions, free land, free electricity, tax exemptions and other concessions so that they could make super profits. This is the model of development which Narendra Modi wants to implement in the whole country. Another aspect of the Gujarat model, which Modi and BJP do not talk about, is how they organised attacks on and carried out the most heinous pogrom against the Muslim minorities in Gujarat in 2002, under the auspices of the Gujarat government. 


The CPI(M) leader also pointed out that even though the Congress and the BJP both say they would lead the government after the Lok Sabha elections, they have, taken together, not been able to get 50 percent of the votes in the last two Lok Sabha elections. As for the non-Congress, non-BJP parties, they command substantial support among the people and are successfully running many state governments. So we are confident that in the coming days the people will reject the UPA for its wrong policies and massive corruption and also the BJP for its equally corrupt practices in the states it is ruling and its communal politics. What is required is people’s mobilisation and struggle to demand alternative policies that are different from those of the Congress and the BJP. In this context, Karat also referred to the recent Delhi convention of 14 non-Congress secular parties and its significance.


Referring again to Comrade Jyoti Basu as an architect of land reforms in West Bengal, Karat said more and more people are losing their land today. According to the latest census figures of 2011, in the last ten years 35 percent of peasants have become agricultural workers, which means 35 percent more people have lost their land. That is why we say we have to still implement the land reforms and distribute lakhs of hectares of surplus land among the landless people and give housesites to lakhs of families. These are some of the alternative policies required in the country today.


Talking of the contours of a policy alternative, Karat included in it a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month for unskilled workers, more government spending on education and health, and taxing the rich for adequate resource mobilisation, among other things. It is through struggles on these issues that a political alternative to the Congress and the BJP would emerge, he added.


Concluding, Prakash Karat expressed confidence that the efforts of the CPI(M) and other Left parties would find a reflection in the coming Lok Sabha elections, and the non-Congress, non-BJP forces would get substantial electoral support.


CPI(M)’s Tamilnadu state secretary G Ramakrishnan and its Central Committee member A Soundararajan, MLA, also addressed the convention. Both of them recalled the memories of Comrade Jyoti Basu.  


The convention was presided over by U K Vellingiri and inaugurated by V Ramamurthi, secretary of the CPI(M)’s Coimbatore district committee. S Krishnamurthi welcomed the participants and Kesavamani proposed the vote of thanks.  


Earlier, a sum of Rs 10,08,500 was handed over to Prakash Karat by the Coimbatore district committee as the second instalment of the election fund donated by the people.