The site was virtually transformed into a place of pilgrimage with the crowds increasing by the minute, as doctors collected his eyes, which he had donated in his lifetime. Many in the crowd had been coming everyday for the past fortnight to inquire after the failing health of their beloved leader.

While hundreds gathered on the street outside the hospital, some perched themselves precariously on railings, police barricades and even on the roof of a nearby bus-stand — in a bid to catch a glimpse of the body of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, as it was brought out of the hospital more than three hours after he passed away.

From the time news of the death was flashed on television screens on Sunday, a steady stream of supporters and followers started pouring towards the hospital.

The site was virtually transformed into a place of pilgrimage with the crowds increasing by the minute, as doctors collected his eyes, which he had donated in his lifetime. Many in the crowd had been coming everyday for the past fortnight to inquire after the failing health of their beloved leader.

Strains of Shesh judho shuru aaj Comrade, aesho mora mili ek shaath (The last struggle begins today Comrades, come let us unite) — the refrain of The International — broke out spontaneously among some groups present. Several broke into tears as they sang the anthem in an expression of their collective grief.

Leaders across party lines came to the hospital to bid adieu to the veteran Marxist leader. There was Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Biman Bose, Chairman of the Left Front Committee, Prakash Karat, the CPI(M) general secretary, Ashok Mitra, noted economist and a Minister in the Cabinet led by Jyoti Basu in 1977, party Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, senior leader of the Communist Party of India Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary of the State unit of the All India Forward Bloc Ashok Ghosh and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Cancelling all political functions for the coming three days as a mark of respect to the veteran Marxist leader, Ms. Banerjee said, “I have met him several times over the past few years at the hospital as well at his residence. We have had several discussions on current political situations and he freely gave me his opinions.”

“He was a fighter incarnate who symbolised the rise of the Left movement in India, one who personified revolt against the Congress governments,” said Mr. Dasgupta.

Jyoti Basu, whom many have described as “a fighter all his life,” continued to battle against all odds for the last 17 days as well.

The nonagenarian leader was admitted to hospital on January 1 as he was complaining of respiratory distress and was later diagnosed to be suffering from pneumonia. He had to be moved to the Intensive Coronary Care Unit (ICCU) a day later, but his condition stabilised and showed marginal improvement over the next few days.

But a week later, on January 6, his condition turned critical and he had to be put on ventilator support. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited him at the hospital and assured the doctors attending on him that if they asked for the services of any specialist from anywhere in the country, it would be made available.

A consultative meeting through a video-conference between a team of experts at AIIMS and the medical board attending on him was arranged. Despite their efforts, in a week's time his condition turned “very critical.” His cardiac and renal functions deteriorated and the first dialysis was carried out. His health further deteriorated as he slipped into multi-organ failure on January 16. In a few hours, his heart impulses became feeble and a pacemaker had to be placed. But the final intervention also went in vain and he breathed his last.

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