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His Stay In England Made Basu A Communist

PTI 17 Jan 2010, 19:55:00 IST

Volatile international situation in 1930s inspired Jyoti Basu, then studying law in England, to turn a Communist while back in India, he donned several hats from a trade union leader to an excellent legislator to a democrat whose voice was respected across the political spectrum.

Basu did not belong to an active political family though his father Nishikanta Basu, an eminent homoeopath doctor, was supportive of the national struggle. While in school, Basu was inspired by the Chittagong armed rebellion led by Surya Sen in 1930. It was his stay in England that made him a Communist. 

In 1935, Basu went to England to study law and the volatile international situation then shaped his political thoughts. Basu gradually came into contact with leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

He began to participate in Marxist Study Circles and joined in the activities of the Communist Groups in London, Oxford, and Cambridge which later led to his decision to join the Communist Party in India when he returned from England. 

He came in close contact with Harry Pollit, Rajni Palme Dutt, Ben Bradley and other leaders of CPGB and all these leaders had a great influencing role on him. 

Basu returned to India in 1940 and immediately contacted the party leaders. Though he enrolled himself as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, he never practised simply because he was determined to become a whole-timer of the party. 

Basu became an active trade union leader in 1944. In that year, Bengal Assam Railroad Workers' Union was formed and Basu became its first secretary. Basu was elected to Bengal Provincial Assembly in 1946 from the Railway Workers constituency. 

During the days of India-China border conflict, Basu, alongwith other leaders of the party, were accused of being "agents of China" and faced attacks from the ruling parties and the anti-Communist media. 

In 1970, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at the Patna Railway Station allegedly by the Anandmargis. In 1971, Basu's car and public meeting were attacked allegedly by Congress workers. 

Though CPI(M) became the single largest party in the assembly elections in 1971, the party was refused the chance to form a ministry and President's Rule was imposed in Bengal. 

In the 1972 state Assembly elctions, Jyoti Basu contested from Baranagar constituency, but by 12 noon on polling day, he declared that he was opting out of the contest alleging massive rigging by Congress with the help of security forces.  Basu famously declared the new assembly as "assembly of the frauds". 

Just before the Emergency in 1975, the CPI(M) along with rightist parties led by Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narain launched a movement against Indira Gandhi. Thousands of CPI(M) activists including their leader Promode Dasgupta were held, but the then chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray never ordered the arrest of Jyoti Basu. 

Basu, during the Emergency used to visit his party office daily in his car and return home. The patience paid off. In the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, Indira Gandhi and the Congress party were sept off, and in that very year, the Left Front led other smaller Left parties to romp home with a two-third majority in the state assembly. The Left Front has been in power in Bengal since then.

It was Jyoti Basu's vision to avoid the splitting of Left vote that led to the formation of the Left Front which has been in power for the last  33 years, though its mass base has been dented now to a large extent by the non-Left parties led by Mamata Banerjee. It was in this context that Mamata Banerjee said on Sunday that Jyoti Basu was the first and last chapter of Left movement in Bengal.