Dear Comrade

Published : Feb 12, 2010 00:00 IST

KERALA CHIEF MINISTER V.S. Achuthanandan pays his last respects to the veteran Marxist leader.-N. RAM

KERALA CHIEF MINISTER V.S. Achuthanandan pays his last respects to the veteran Marxist leader.-N. RAM

We shared a warm relationship.V.S. Achuthanandan, Kerala Chief Minister.

I REMEMBER meeting Jyoti Basu for the first time at the undivided Communist Party of Indias national council meeting soon after the partys Amritsar congress in 1958, when [S.A.] Dange was the chairman. Though I was selected by the party to attend the congress, at the last minute I was assigned to oversee a crucial election campaign at Devikulam [in Idukki district, Kerala]. So, though I could not attend the party congress, I was chosen as a member of the national council. I met Jyoti Basu at the Council meeting. From then on, until his death, we maintained a close relationship and worked together closely as members of the national council, the central committee and other bodies of the Communist party. He was a dear comrade and we shared a warm relationship throughout. For me, his death is all the more painful.

Indeed, it is a great loss not only for those of us in India but also for the world communist movement. Basu certainly wrote a new history, showing the way for communists in parliamentary elections. He played a crucial role in building the Left, secular, Third Front coalition against communal forces and the one-party domination at the Centre, and in making the Third Front a democratic force. He anchored the continuous victory of the Left movement in West Bengal for 23 years from 1977. After Nehrus death, he took up Nehrus legacy of insisting that Bangladesh, which shared a border with West Bengal, should get its due share of the waters of the Ganga. He was not just a political leader but a great statesman, and a true representative of the Indian people.

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when anti-communist forces were stealing a march over communist forces in many parts of the world, there was this big campaign doing the rounds that communism had no future. But Basu continued to lead those successive electoral triumphs of the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal, proving the critics wrong and encouraging comrades all over the world. One should not forget that Basu had led the Communist party and made it a movement with such a mass base in West Bengal after thoroughly defeating an oppressive, undemocratic, semi-fascist, anti-Communist government led by Siddhartha Shankar Ray.

Though he was born into a conservative, aristocratic family, was sent for higher studies in England, and had a lucrative career waiting for him, Basu chose to become a communist even while he was a student, and, on his return [from England], to build the party and to work for the downtrodden in his motherland. He began by organising railway workers who were then leading a slave-like existence in those parts. He also had a leadership role in establishing the CITU.

When the party split in 1964, with Dange insisting that the CPI national council should adopt the resolution passed by the Indian National Congress, I was among the 32 [the others included M. Basavapunnaiah, P. Sundarayya, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, A.K. Gopalan and Basu] of the 101 national council members who walked out to form the CPI(M). We were ridiculed and criticised for what was described as our anti-India stand. But we believed that the two neighbouring countries that had fought imperialistic forces should not fall for the imperialist trap by going to war against each other but instead should solve our disputes in a peaceful manner. With Basus death, there are only two [of the 32 founding members] left, N. Sankariah [Tamil Nadu] and I. Basus passing away is in many ways a personal loss for me.

I was the State party secretary in Kerala for 12 years from 1980, while Basu was West Bengal Chief Minister. I invited him on several occasions to Kerala and he accepted the invitation with warmth and affection. He had great regard for the Left movement in Kerala and admiration for E.M.S. Namboodiripad and the policies adopted by the first Communist government, including, importantly, the land reforms, which he would always mention in his speeches in Kerala.

Basu could easily play the roles of both a true party leader and leader of the people in general even while he was the leader of the Left coalition in West Bengal. He could manage conflicting interests and aspirations even while sticking to the party line, and therein lay his strength.

His policies and programmes were always grounded well within the policies and programmes of the CPI(M). Only once did he express an opinion different from that of the party, perhaps because he really believed a communist Prime Minister could make a difference in India. Some people supported him. But the majority in the party believed that it would be a mistake to accept the offer of prime ministership if the party did not have a crucial influence in that government.

R. Krishnakumar
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