Jyoti Basu, 1914-2010

Basu In The Hindu:

Mr. Basu was India’s pre-eminent Communist leader, and one of post-independence India’s greatest and most respected mass political leaders. He was the last of the nine founding Polit Bureau members and India’s longest-serving Chief Minister.

Mr. Basu was a man of immense charisma, and one whose faith in the people was unflinching. He lived a full life, characterised by struggle and by successes in government that few other political leaders in India have been able to match. He was immaculate in dress and bearing, a person of extraordinary personal discipline, and, well into his 80s, known for the briskness of his stride, and for consistently outpacing the security guards who accompanied him.

A byword for intellectual, political and personal integrity and for a straightforward, self-assured and imperturbable style in politics, Mr. Basu made a profound, long-term difference to the large, populous and strategically important State that was his first priority and commanded his best efforts. As has been widely noted, his enduring legacy as Chief Minister of West Bengal between 1977 and 2000 includes land reforms, accountable governance, functioning panchayat institutions, and the creation of a stable atmosphere of communal harmony and secularism.

However, those who remember him chiefly as India’s longest-serving Chief Minister are likely to underestimate his long experience in the crucible of struggle: as a trade union organiser, as a popular agitator, and as a revolutionary fighter – starting, as was typical for his generation, as a freedom fighter and courageously facing and overcoming state-sponsored repression and intolerance in independent India as well. They are likely also to underestimate the inner resources of one of the most attractive and gifted mass political leaders that India, or indeed any country, has seen over the past half century.