Basu's Long March ends

Body to be donated to state-run hospital tomorrow as per his wishes
Last Updated 17 January 2010, 20:03 IST

He was 95 and is survived by son Chandan. Basu’s wife Kamala died four years ago. The end of an era came at 11:47 am at a private hospital where he was being treated following multiple health complications since January 1 this year.

While much of Bengal lionised him, Basu, also called Jyoti Babu, leaves a mixed legacy that his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is finding hard to keep together. Yet, even as Basu fades from view, he retains a vital place in the public consciousness here. To many he was an ideal leader, a quality against which his political successors are measured and often found wanting.

Basu, who held an enviable record of being the country’s longest-serving chief minister, came within a whisker of becoming India’s first ever communist prime minister. But his party — the CPM — scuppered his chances, a decision he later denounced as a historic blunder.

The communist patriarch, who relinquished the office of chief minister in November 2000 after an uninterrupted tenure of 23 years, having stridden the political stage for over six decades, was in and out of hospitals over the last two years. A sudden deterioration in health condition early this month saw him being put on pace-maker, haemo-dialysis and ventilator.

But unlike the political battle which he won with elan umpteen number of times, Basu had to yield to this last and final battle against life before lapsing into coma. “I have a sad announcement to make. Jyoti Basu is no more with us,” an emotional Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose broke the news at the gates of AMRI hospital.
Next to Bose was Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who appeared distraught and hardly broke his silence.

Basu was elected to the Bengal legislative Assembly in 1946, contesting the Railway Constituency. In 1967 and 1969, Basu became deputy chief minister of West Bengal in the United Front government. From June 21, 1977 to November 6, 2000, Basu served as the chief minister for the Left Front government.

The news of Basu’s death almost shook the city out of its Sunday stupor as hundreds of thousands of mourners thronged the roads as the charismatic leader’s body was taken to Peace Haven, a private funeral parlour, where it will remain in state for people to pay homage. Basu’s eyes, which he had pledged to donate some years back, were removed by doctors at an eye hospital.

Basu’s son businessman Chandan, daughter-in-law Rakhi and grand-daughters Payel, Doyel and Koyel were at the hospital before the procession with the leader’s body started for Peace Haven.

Leaders pay tributes

President Pratibha Patil, Vice- President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P Chidambaram and leaders across the entire political spectrum condoled Basu’s demise.

The CPM, which he founded along with several others in 1964 when the CPI split, expressed profound grief at his death and called him one of the tallest leaders of the communist movement.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, CPM leader Prakash Karat and wife Brinda Karat, veteran Forward Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh and a host of Left leaders visited the hospital on Sunday.

A pall of gloom descended on the city as grief-stricken supporters and admirers lined up in hordes at the hospital to pay their last respects to the departed leader. The road leading to AMRI hospital in Salt Lake was closed to traffic by the police who were deployed in large numbers.

Mourning Basu, Somnath Chatterjee said he had lost a father figure.
“When things started to go bad (in Left front), he was sad. He was sad about what happened with me. I used to consult him on all matters.”

Addressing newspersons at the state party headquarters here, Biman Bose clarified that Basu will not be cremated but his body will be handed over on Tuesday to the state-run hospital SSKM as he had pledged to donate his body.

According to him, a host of CPM leaders and politburo members from various states, other party leaders and dignitaries from India and abroad were expected to fly into the city on Monday to pay their last respects to Basu.

“After leaders and people offer their condolence on Monday, Basu’s body will be taken in a procession on Tuesday to the Writers’ Building (state secretariat) and then to the state Assembly before it is handed over to the SSKM Hospital authorities,” Bose said. The West Bengal government has declared Monday a holiday as a mark of respect to Basu.

(Published 17 January 2010, 03:35 IST)

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