Meetings, rallies launch Basu's birth centenary celebrations
West Bengal Monday launched the birth centenary celebrations of legendary Marxist leader and former state chief minister Jyoti Basu with floral tributes, meetings and processions that saw his political friends and foes participate in large numbers.
The state assembly, where Basu was a member for 49 years, paid him glowing tributes. His portrait was garlanded among others by former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, assembly speaker Biman Banerjee, his predecessor H.A. Halim and leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.
Chatterjee recalled Basu's deep respect for parliamentary democracy, saying he considered the legislature "as the temple of democracy".
"When Basu became a legislator, the CPI (the undivided Communist Party of India) did not have many members. But despite that, as an opposition leader, Basu showed how the floor of the assembly could be used in the people's interest, how the assembly procedures could be used to reach the voice of the people to the government and the ministry," he said.
"When I joined politics, he told me 'This is the best platform to serve the people'. These words still ring in my ears."
Chatterjee refered to Basu's fight for strengthening the federal structure of the Indian constitution and his campaign for more powers for the state.
"He was always considered as a national leader. Then prime minister Indira Gandhi used to invite him for his suggestions on crucial matters."
Biman Banerjee called Basu a "great personality" who was pragmatic in his approach. "It was a tribute to his acceptability that he was requested in 1996 to become the country's prime minister, though his party CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) did not allow him to take up the top assignment."
Calling Basu as "my leader", Halim spoke of his punctuality, and ability to connect with the masses whose language he spoke in public meetings.
Basu brought about fundamental changes in rural development, he said.
Trinamool MP Sougata Roy, who was one of the finest orators in the opposition benches during Basu's tenure, said a hallmark of his political life was consistency.
"He could have easily gone to the Lok Sabha and played a role in national politics, but did not. His loyalty to his party is worth emulating."
Remembering Basu's sacrifices, Roy said: "He was born in a well-to-do family, studied in missionary schools and the celebrated Presidency College, and became a barrister from England. But he left everything to serve the party and people. When his father died, Basu was in jail. He attended the funeral in handcuffs.
"In politics, those who want to climb the ladder fast, should take lessons from his sacrifices".
"History will remember him for his role in strengthening parliamentary democracy despite being a communist, his efforts to evolve a consensus on questions involving the nation's unitya dn integrity and uncompromising stand against communalism."
In the morning, women, physically challenged people and children carrying Basu's portrait took part in a large rally from Indira Bhawan, where Basu, a founding member of the CPI-M, spent his last years in the satellite township of Salt Lake.
There were songs and slogans eulogising the leader, who holds the record for the longest continuous chief ministerial tenure in independent India - from 1977 till he voluntarily stepped down in 2000.
Holding aloft the red flag, the participants marched to Indira Bhawan where Chatterjee, Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh and other leaders garlanded his portrait.
Basu's portrait was garlanded at the office of CPI-M's labour arm CITU - of which he was a founder vice-president.
The organisation's flag was raised, and its leaders wore badges with Basu's portrait.
Born July 8, 1914, Basu died Jan 17, 2010.
(Posted on 08-07-2013)