Kshiti Goswami, RSP general secretary, passes away

Published : November 25, 2019 18:31 IST

Kshiti Goswami. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

The general secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) Kshiti Goswami passed away on November 24 at a private hospital in Chennai. He was 76. Goswami was one of the most prominent faces of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government that ruled West Bengal for 34 years until 2011, and was Minister for Public Works Department (PWD) for more than 10 years. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Born in Bangladesh’s Dinajpur district on January 24, 1943, Goswami’s family moved to Balurghat in West Bengal after Partition. Growing up in abject poverty, he got involved in the Left movement while still in school. It was through the student movement that he made his bones in politics, rising up the ranks and becoming the State secretary of the All India Progressive Students’ Union, the student wing of the RSP.

He was elected to the West Bengal Assembly for the first time in 1991 from the Dhakuria constituency in Kolkata. In 1994 he was made PWD Minister in the Cabinet of Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. Goswami continued in his post until 2001 when he lost in the election. But in 2006 he returned to the Assembly and resumed his post as PWD Minister, this time in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government. In the 2011 Assembly election, which saw the defeat of the Left Front, Goswami contested unsuccessfully from the Alipurduar constituency in north Bengal.

Although he was one of the most high-profile Ministers in the Left Front Cabinet, Goswami later became a most vocal critic of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s policy of forcible acquisition of agricultural land for setting up industries. He was also always sceptical of the idea of a Left-Congress tie-up to either take on the Trinamool Congress in the State or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre. Even as late as 2018, after being elected general secretary of the RSP, he was uncomfortable with the prospects of a tie-up with the Congress, even though he had considerably softened his stand on the issue. “When we talk about the coming together of democratic secular forces to defeat the BJP, automatically the Congress comes into the picture. But we also have to take into consideration the fact that our relationship with the Congress varies drastically from State to State. The Congress is not equally accepted in all the States. We have to see where the situation is heading and then take a decision,” he had said.

For all the differences he may have had with the CPI(M), his main focus until the end was the strengthening of “Left unity”. “My main priority is to strengthen the cohesion within the Left Front. The cohesion among us is a little loose now. There may be times when the differences in our views come to the fore, but one thing that all of us, including the CPI(M), agree on is that Left unity is of primary importance, and with that unity we have to take the Left movement forward. This will also give reassurance to other democratic secular forces in the fight against the BJP,” Goswami had told Frontline after being elected general secretary of the party.

Amiable and accessible even at the height of the Left Front’s power in the State, Goswami was a popular figure cutting across political lines. “I am deeply shocked and grieved by the sudden demise of Kshiti Goswami…. This is an immense loss to Indian politics,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The CPI(M) Polit Bureau said in a statement, “This loss leaves a void not only for the RSP but also for the Left Front in West Bengal and the Left movement in the country.”

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