Jyotirindra Basu (8 July 1914 – 17 January 2010); known as Jyoti
Basu was an Indian politician belonging to the Communist Party of
India (Marxist) from West Bengal, India. He served as the Chief
West Bengal state from 1977 to 2000. Basu was a member of
Politburo from the time of the party's founding (The CPI(M)
was formed at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of India
Calcutta from 31 October to 7 November 1964) in 1964 until
2008. From 2008 until his death in 2010 he remained a permanent
invitee to the central committee of the party.
1 Birth and education
2 Return to
India and marriage
3 Political career
3.1 Entry into politics
3.2 Later political career
3.3 As the Chief Minister of West Bengal
4 Death, tribute and legacy
5 See also
7 External links
Birth and education
Paternal house of
Jyoti Basu at Barodi in Narayanganj, Bangladesh
Jyotirindra Basu was born 8 July 1914 at 43/1 Harrison Road (now
Mahatma Gandhi Road) in Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) into a
very affluent family. His father, Nishikanta Basu, was a doctor
Kolkata who hailed from the village of Barudi in
Narayanganj District, East Bengal (Bangladesh), while his mother
Hemalata Basu was a housewife. Basu grew up in a large Indian-style
joint family, consisting of his parents, siblings, paternal uncles,
their wives and children. The family, who had lived in a rented house
Kolkata in addition to retaining ancestral properties East Bengal,
purchased a spacious mansion at 55-A, Hindustan Road in 1920, and this
is where Basu grew up.
Basu's schooling started at Loreto School at
1920, and he was moved in 1925 to St. Xavier's School. While admitting
him to school, Basu's father shortened his name from Jyotirindra Basu
to Jyoti Basu, and the shortened name stuck for life. After completing
school, Basu took an undergraduate degree in English literature
honours from Presidency College, University of Calcutta.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Basu left for England to
study law in 1935. In England, he was introduced to politics and
became greatly influenced by the Communist Party of Great Britain. He
attended lectures by
Harold Laski at the London School of Economics
and was also influenced by noted Communist ideologue and prolific
writer Rajani Palme Dutt, a fellow Bengali. Between 1936 and 1940,
Basu involved himself in various political activities, came into
contact with several Indian freedom fighters including Nehru, became a
member of the
India league, and joined the London Majlis. A fuller
account of these years is found in a later section. Basu completed his
studies in 1939 and was invited to the
Middle Temple as a
1939. Shortly afterwards, he returned to
India by sea, docking at
Mumbai and travelling from there to
Kolkata by train.
India and marriage
Kolkata and was reunited with his parents on January 1,
1940. While he was in London, his parents had selected a suitable
bride for him and informed him of their choice. Like a normal Indian
boy of his generation, Basu had replied that if the girl was
acceptable to his parents, she was acceptable to him. The two sets
of parents had then made arrangements for the wedding, and on Jan 20,
1940, only nineteen days after his return to India, Basu was married
to Basanti Devi (née Ghose, fondly known as 'Chobi'), a girl of his
own caste and similar family background. Unfortunately, Basanti
died in 1942, hardly two years after the wedding, and there were no
surviving children. Basu's mother, Hemalata Devi, also died a few
months later, in 1942.
After returning to India, Basu had become an active member of the
Communist Party, to his father's chagrin. After Basanti's death, he
deepened his involvement, virtually giving up the pretense of earning
a living as a lawyer. His legal practice was mostly about providing
legal services pro bono to the party and its affiliates, in particular
to trade unions. He lived as always with his father and extended
family (as per Indian custom) and thus had little need to earn a
living. As a young barrister studying in England, he had been a prize
catch for any family with a marriageable daughter, but the situation
was altered now, and proposals were not plentiful. Several years
passed, and Basu's father and other family members grew anxious to see
him settled again. In time, they arranged for him to marry another
suitable girl of their caste and background. This was Kamala, who Basu
married on Dec 5, 1948. The marriage, which conformed in every way
to Indian tradition and convention, was harmonious and lasted until
their deaths more than sixty years later. On Aug 31, 1951, the couple
became the parents of a girl child, born at Sishumangal Hospital in
Kolkata. Tragically, the unnamed baby died only a few days later of
diarrhoea and dehydration. In 1952, the couple were blessed with the
birth of a son, Subhabrata Basu, fondly known as 'Chandan' by one and
all. Chandan, who was to be the couple's only surviving child, was
born while Basu was in prison for allegedly seditious activities,
having been incarcerated by the Congress-led government of independent
Shortly after Chandan was born, Basu's father, Nishikant Basu, wrote a
will which disinherited Basu entirely and vested all his property, a
considerable fortune which included the massive mansion in Kokata, in
the name of his daughter-in-law Kamala, with provision that the
property be inherited by Chandan eventually. The elderly bhadralok
patrician had been aghast, even distraught, to find that his beloved
son had returned from England a communist, and that he had developed
over the next decade (the 1940s) into a violent revolutionary. Basu
was to say later that the arrangement suited him perfectly, that
indeed it had been devised in consultation with him; it ensured that
Kamala was always able to feed the family and pay for her son's
education, which left Basu free from the tension of having to provide
for his wife and son, and enabled him to pursue his political
activities exactly as he wanted.
Entry into politics
Part of a series on
Communism in India
M. N. Roy
P. Krishna Pillai
Puran Chand Joshi
A. K. Gopalan
B. T. Ranadive
E. M. S. Namboodiripad
T. Nagi Reddy
E. K. Nayanar
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
V. S. Achuthanandan
Colonial Period and Partition
Labour Kisan Party
Workers and Peasants Party
Communist Party of French India
Lal Communist Party
2nd Party Congress
Cold War years
Communism in Kerala
Jyoti Basu's first track in politics was his effort to organise the
Indian students studying in United Kingdom, mostly for the cause of
Indian independence. Basu subsequently joined India
League and London Majlis, both the organisations being communities of
overseas Indian students. Basu was later elected the General Secretary
of London Majlish. Basu was given the responsibility for arranging
a meeting with
Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru's visit to London in
1938. The same was done after
Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose went to England. As
a member of London Majlis, Basu introduced the visiting Indian
political figures to the leaders of the Labour Party.
Basu was introduced to the
Communist Party of Great Britain
Communist Party of Great Britain by another
communist leader and Basu's friend in England, Bhupesh Gupta. It is
told Basu showed interest to join CPGB but the then Secretary General
Harry Pollitt suggested that he should not do so, possibly because
CPGB was then banned in
India and Pollitt speculated Basu could have
difficulties in returning to
India as a member of CPGB.
However 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 wholetimer of the Party.
Basu became the secretary of Friends of Soviet Union and Anti-Fascist
Writers' Association in Kolkata. As a member of the Party, his initial
task was to maintain liaison with underground Party leaders. He was
entrusted with responsibilities on the trade union front from 1944. In
that year, Bengal Assam Railroad Workers' Union was formed and Basu
became its first secretary. In 1944 Basu became involved in trade
union activities when CPI delegated him to work amongst the railway
labourers. When B.N. Railway Workers Union and B.D. Rail Road Workers
Union merged, Basu became the general secretary of the union. In 1946,
Basu was elected to the Bengal Provincial Assembly from the Railway
Workers constituency. Ratanlal Bramhan and Rupnarayan Roy were the
other two Communists who were elected. From that day on, Basu became
one of the most popular and influential legislators for decades to
Basu played a very active role in the stormy days of 1946–47 when
Bengal witnessed the Tebhaga movement, workers strikes and even
In the late 1940s, Basu served as the Vice-President of the All India
Railwaymen's Federation until Communists were expelled from the union
for attempt to organize strikes after the union had withdrawn its
Jyoti Basu was the secretary of the
West Bengal Provincial Committee
of the Party from 1953 to January 1961. He was elected to the Central
Committee of the Party in 1951. He was a member of the
1964 onwards. He was elected as a special invitee to PB in 19th
Congress of the Party in 2008.
After the country gained independence, he was elected to the assembly
from Baranagar in 1952. He was elected to the
West Bengal Legislative
Assembly in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1991
and 1996. Though an elected member, Basu was arrested several times
during the 1950s and 60s and for certain periods he went underground
to evade arrest by the police.
Jyoti Basu was one amongst the 32 members of the National
Council who walked out of the meeting. When the CPI(M) was formed in
1964 as a result of the ideological struggle within the Communist
movement, Basu became a member of the Politburo. He was, in fact, the
last surviving member of the "Navaratnas", the nine members of the
first Politburo. The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council
members belonged, organised a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh 7
to 11 July. It was here where the radical sections of party further
showed their pro-Chinese stand. The
Tenali convention was marked by
the display of a large portrait of the Chinese Communist leader Mao
Later political career
Basu was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946,
contesting the Railway constituency. He served as the Leader of
Opposition for a long time when Dr.
Bidhan Chandra Roy
Bidhan Chandra Roy was the Chief
Minister of West Bengal.
Jyoti Basu led a number of agitations against
the State Government and earned enviable popularity as a politician
particularly among the students and youth. Beside organising the
movements of the Railway Labourers, he led a movement by the teachers
demanding a hike in salary. When the Communist Party of
India split in
1964, Basu became one of the first nine members of the
the newly formed Communist Party of
India (Marxist). In 1967 and
1969, Basu became Deputy
Chief Minister of West Bengal
Chief Minister of West Bengal in the United
Front governments. In 1967, after the defeat of the Congress
Jyoti Basu was sworn-in as the Deputy Chief Minister under
the Chief Ministership of Ajoy Mukherjee. In 1970, he narrowly escaped
an assassination attempt at the Patna railway station. 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 presidents' Rule
was imposed in West Bengal.
Through the 1972 elections the Congress returned to power in West
Jyoti Basu lost the elections from the Baranagar Assembly
Constituency. Basu famously declared the new assembly as "assembly of
the frauds" and CPI(M) boycotted the assembly for the next five years.
As the Chief Minister of West Bengal
After the sweeping victory of the Left Front in 1977, Jyoti Basu
became the Chief Minister of the Left Front government, a position he
held continuously for more than 23 years, a record in the country.
Under his leadership, the Left Front government embarked on land
reforms on a scale unprecedented in the country; it
instituted a panchayati raj system which was radical for its times,
which gave the poor peasants and small farmers a say in running the
West Bengal became an oasis of communal
harmony and secular values under his leadership, while various
measures were introduced to promote social and economic development in
West Bengal, and subsequently overall poverty significantly declined
in the state. Basic land reform was instituted, while irrigation and
rural electrification were extended. In addition, India's first
comprehensive system of democratic decentralisation was established.
Agricultural production came out of a slump that it had been in for
decades before the Left Front came to power, and during the Eighties
and Nineties the state showed the highest rates of agricultural growth
among the 17 most populous Indian states. As a result of institutional
changes and agricultural growth, levels of nutrition improved and
rural poverty declined noticeably. One has to recall how as Chief
Minister he dealt with the situation after the assassination of Indira
Gandhi in 1984 when violence against Sikhs broke out in various parts
of the country, but nothing was allowed to happen in West Bengal.
Similarly he dealt firmly with efforts to instigate trouble after the
demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. In 1996
Jyoti Basu seemed all
set to be the consensus leader of the United Front for the post of
Prime Minister of India. However, the CPI(M)
Politburo decided not to
participate in the government, a decision that
Jyoti Basu later termed
a historic blunder.
H.D. Deve Gowda from the
Janata Dal instead became
prime minister. Basu resigned from the Chief Ministership of West
Bengal in 2000 for health reasons, and was succeeded by fellow CPI(M)
politician Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. As of 2017[update], Basu holds the
record for being the longest-serving Chief Minister in Indian
The 18th congress of CPI(M), held in Delhi in 2005, re-elected Basu to
its Politburo, although he had asked to be allowed to retire from it.
On 13 September 2006, Basu entreated the CPI(M) to allow his
retirement due to his age, but was turned down. General secretary
Prakash Karat said that the party wanted Basu to continue until its
2008 congress, at which point it would reconsider. At the 19th
congress in early April 2008, Basu was not included on the Politburo,
although he remained a member of the Central Committee and was
Special Invitee to the Politburo. In the course of
seven decades of work in the Communist party, Basu spent three and a
half years in prison and two years underground. After the fall of the
Soviet Union and the setbacks to socialism, he provided the leadership
along with his colleagues in the
Politburo to make a reappraisal of
the experience of building socialism and to pinpoint the errors and to
correct wrong notions and understandings while remaining true to
Marxism–Leninism. He was a Marxist who was not dogmatic and
continued to learn from his vast experience in charting out the course
for the Party.
He emerged as the pre-eminent and most popular leader of the Party,
but he always worked as a disciplined member of the Party, setting an
example for all. In his long career in the Party, he undertook various
responsibilities including being the first editor of People's
Democracy. He had a lifelong association with the trade union movement
and was the Vice-President of the
Centre of Indian Trade Unions
Centre of Indian Trade Unions since
its inception in 1970.
Some commentators feel Basu was more of a democratic socialist than a
traditional Communist. "He made Communism look respectable," according
to Sabyasachi Basu Roy Choudhuri, a Calcutta-based political
There were charges that his party members engaged in corruption and
rigging of elections
Death, tribute and legacy
On 1 January 2010, Basu was admitted to AMRI hospital (Bidhannagar,
Kolkata) after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. On 16 January
2010, his health condition became extremely critical and he was
suffering from multiple organ failure. Seventeen days after being
taken ill, he died on 17 January 2010 at 11:47 am IST.
The death was followed by public mourning on an unprecedented scale.
Draped in the party flag, Basu's body was driven through the streets
Calcutta on a gun carriage. However, the time schedule went awry in
his last moments as thousands of people thronged the streets of
Kolkata to pay their last respects. Police and volunteers wore
a helpless look as a sea of people poured in from every possible
corner of the city. President
Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh led the nation in mourning.
Tributes poured in from politicians across the country. While Patil
said "the nation has lost a veteran and eminent public figure,"
Manmohan Singh said Basu was a politician to whom he often turned for
"sagacious advice". Basu was a leader "who displayed his abilities as
a leader of the people, an able administrator and eminent statesman",
the president said in a statement. "In the years after he relinquished
the Chief Ministry, he continued to be looked upon as an elder
statesman, whose advice was sought by many political leaders in the
state," the president added.
In a message to Jyoti Basu's son Chandan,
Manmohan Singh said: "He was
a powerful regional voice in the national political scene and helped
to strengthen Indian federalism... He was a man of great integrity
with a deep commitment to secular values." He added:"I have personally
had a very long association with Basu. On many occasions in my career,
I turned to him for his sagacious advice on all matters, whether they
West Bengal or to issues of national importance". Vice
President Hamid Ansari said Basu had left behind a void that would be
difficult to fill. "His sagacity and leadership at both the state and
the national level have been a source of inspiration and guidance,"
Ansari said in a statement.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that Basu led for several
years expressed "profound grief", saying he was a Marxist who was not
Jyoti Basu was a Marxist who never wavered in his
convictions. He was a Marxist who was not dogmatic and continued to
learn from his vast experience in charting out the course for the
party," the CPI-M politburo said. "There will be none like Jyoti Basu
again," was how CPI-M general secretary
Prakash Karat saluted a man he
had prevented from becoming the prime minister in 1996. Karat, who
influenced the CPI-M to block Basu from taking charge of the United
Front government in 1996, said that the former
West Bengal chief
minister "was a great leader of the CPI-M, the Left movement and
India. With his passing away, an era has passed". Communist Party of
India (CPI) leader D. Raja paid glowing tributes to the Marxist
patriarch, saying he could have proved to be a great prime minister.
"He (Basu) proved that the coalition of Left parties would work
successfully and serve the people greatly. He could have proved to be
a great prime minister also," Raja said.
Lok Sabha speaker and Communist leader
Somnath Chatterjee said
he had lost someone like his father. "When things started to go bad
(in Left front), he was sad. He was sad about what happened with me. I
used to consult him on all matters. For the second time, I have lost
somebody like my father," said an emotional Chatterjee.
Pranab Mukherjee said he would miss a well-wisher.
"In his death, I have lost a great well-wisher, and the country has
lost an able administrator, an outstanding parliamentarian and a
charismatic political leader," Mukherjee told reporters.
Bharatiya Janata Party
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the staunchest anti-Communist force
in the country, mourned the death of the Marxist leader, describing
him as a "role model for Indian politics". In a moving tribute, senior
Arun Jaitley told reporters here that Basu, who was West
Bengal's chief minister for 23 long years, was one of the "tallest
leaders" in Indian politics with "high credibility". "He was devoted
to his ideology and played the longest innings in Indian politics,"
Jaitley said. Former prime minister and senior BJP leader Atal Bihari
Vajpayee said Basu's demise had "ended a chapter in the country's
P. Chidambaram told reporters in Kolkata: "He was a
colossus who straddled India's political scene for many decades. Not
only the leader of West Bengal, but of India. He was a great patriot,
great democrat, great parliamentarian and great source of inspiration.
He served the people of
India to the best." he said.
Basu had pledged to donate his body and eyes for medical research on 4
April 2003 at a function organised by Ganadarpan and Susrut Eye
Kolkata and not to be burned at a crematorium. His eyes
are donated to Susrut Eye Foundation. He is survived by his son
Chandan, daughter-in-law Rakhi, grand daughters Payel, Doyel and
Koyel, offsprings of his first daughter-in-law Dolly (separated with
son Chandan in 1998), and grand son Subhojyoti, offspring of
daughter-in-law Rakhi. His second wife Kamala Basu had died on 1
October 2003. Basu's body was kept at 'Peace Haven' for those who
wanted to pay their respects. His body was handed over to SSKM
Kolkata for research on 19 January 2010 around 16:50 pm
IST after a guard of honour at the nearby Moharkunja park (formerly,
citizens' park). The hospital authority is considering preserving
The Trinamool Congress-run government has decided not to rename
Rajarhat New Town after Jyoti Basu. The renaming proposal was a part
of the New Town
Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2010,
passed in the assembly during the Left Front regime. A programme was
even held at Rajarhat in October 2010 on the township's renaming.
Jyoti Basu 17 January 2010 BBC News.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jyoti Basu.
Jyoti Basu website
Menon, Ramdas (28 January 2010). "The Legacy of Jyoti Basu".
Majumdar, Diptosh (18 January 2010). "Jyoti Basu, the last Bhadralok
Communist". ibnlive.com. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
Siddhartha Shankar Ray
Chief Minister of West Bengal
Chief Ministers of West Bengal
Prafulla Chandra Ghosh
Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (1947–48; 1967–68)
Bidhan Chandra Roy
Bidhan Chandra Roy (1948–1962)
Prafulla Chandra Sen (1962–67)
Ajoy Mukherjee (1967; 1969–70; 1971)
Siddhartha Shankar Ray
Siddhartha Shankar Ray (1972–77)
Jyoti Basu (1977–2000)
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (2000–2011)
Mamata Banerjee (2011–)
Communist Party of
P. Sundarayya (1964–78)
E. M. S. Namboodiripad
E. M. S. Namboodiripad (1978–92)
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
Harkishan Singh Surjeet (1992–2005)
Prakash Karat (2005–15)
Sitaram Yechury (2015–present)
S. Ramachandran Pillai
B. V. Raghavulu
M. A. Baby
Surja Kanta Mishra
E. M. S. Namboodiripad
E. K. Nayanar
V. S. Achuthanandan
India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA)
India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
Centre of Indian Trade Unions
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