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Basu, A Tireless Crusader Against Communalism: Sonia

PTI 17 Jan 2010, 19:43:58 IST

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday  described Marxist veteran Jyoti Basu as a towering figure on the national scene, a tireless crusader against communalism and all sorts of obscurantism and a true patriot who always put the national interest above everything else. 

In a letter addressed to Chandan Basu, the son of the CPI(M) leader, Gandhi also struck a personal note saying, "I have the warmest memories of our many meetings --- of his charm and grace and deep humanity....At this time of grief my thoughts are with you and your family." 

She also said that she, her husband late Rajiv Gandhi and her mother-in-law late Indira Gandhi (both former Prime Ministers) always held Basu in high esteem. 

Gandhi, who is also the UPA Chairperson, recalled Basu's contribution to the formation of the UPA government with Left support in 2004. 

"He contributed to the formation of UPA government in 2004 and we continued to count on him for his wise counsel even after he retired from political life," she said adding that not just the people of West Bengal and his millions of political followers, but the entire nation is in mourning. 

"He was a tireless crusader against communalism, fundamentalism, casteism and all kinds of the obscurantism, a warrior for social justice and equality and for eradication of poverty, a true patriot, who always kept the national interest above all else. He was a towering figure in our national life, whose noble vision, superb judgement and depth of experience we all valued greatly," she said. 

"Jyoti Basu did not go gentle into the good night. He fought bravely till his last breath, just as he did throughout his life. And what a rich fulfilled and glorious life he had. He served his country, his party and his state with whole-hearted dedication for over half a century," Gandhi said in her condolence message. 

Congress sources said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, also Bengal PCC chief, will attend the cremation as the representative of the Union Government as well as the party. 

Mukherjee, who shared a close relationship with Basu earlier described the Marxist patriarch as a "charismatic" political leader and a "towering personality". 

Speaking about his "close intimacy" with the veteran CPI-M leader, who died in Kolkata this morning, Mukherjee said, "I knew him personally for more than five decades...In his death I lost a great well-wisher of myself." Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said Basu's death signfied the end of an era. 

"Jyoti Babu belongs to the era of gentleman politics. His death signifies the end of an era...As a disciplined party solider, he paid the price with Prime Minister's post although a lot of persons said that it was a historic blunder," Singhvi said. 

He was referring to the refusal of the CPI-M to join the 1996 United Front government even though the Prime Minister's chair was offered to Basu. PTI