“Whenever the country was in crisis, it was Jyoti Basu who guided all political parties. He was the king among communists.” This was how the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, described veteran Marxist leader Basu.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gowda said Mr. Basu was an honest and unblemished leader. He narrated the incident when Mr. Basu was almost tipped to become the Prime Minister after the fall of the 13-day Vajpayee government at the Centre in May 1996. Mr. Gowda said that all the political parties committed to secularism wanted Mr. Basu to become the Prime Minister and pressured him for two days. But there was no collective opinion in his own party. Even Harkishan Singh Surjeet tried to persuade him to accept the post, but Mr. Basu refused.

“At the Tamil Nadu Bhavan in New Delhi, it was Mr. Basu who suggested my name for the post of Prime Minister. By then, he was Chief Minister for 18 years while I did not complete even 18 months as Chief Minister. I pleaded with him to leave me alone. But Mr. Basu made it clear that the secular fabric of this country must be saved at any cost,” Mr. Gowda said.

“But Mr. Basu said that we [the Left parties] had no majority. As Chief Minister of Karnataka, he said I had brought several reforms, effectively implemented reservation and provided it to all the weaker sections, the backward classes and minorities. Hence he wanted me to become the Prime Minister,” Mr. Gowda added.

The former Rajya Sabha member, H.K. Javare Gowda, described Mr. Basu as a leader par excellence and said his death was a great loss to the country.

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