These are culled from Basu’s Memoirs — A Political Autobiography — by Jyoti Basu (translated from the original in Bengali — Jatadur Mone Pore (As far as I can recall)
When Basu wore khadi
The year was 1930-31 and he was in the eighth standard at St. Xavier’s. Entire Bengal was being swept by revolutionary zeal of the freedom struggle.
He writes: “It was in the same year that we heard that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was to address a meeting at the Monument (now Shahid Minar) ground. A cousin and I decided to go. We were not into “khaddar” those days but somehow, emotion got the better of us and we wore the homespun cloth. The entire area resembled a battlefield. There were mounted policemen, ordinary constables and sergeants in uniform. When the sergeants gave chase, we decided we would not run for safety; as we started to walk away in the face of the onslaught, a few canes fell on our backs. But we did not flee; that would show that we were scared. We walked briskly to Father’s chamber.”
Childhood memories at ancestral house
Jyoti Basu’s ancestral home is in Bardi in Narayangunj near Dhaka, Bangladesh. He made his first visit there as chief minister of West Bengal in 1987 and was hit by nostalgia. He has handed over his residence to the Bangladesh government saying that it should be used for people’s welfare.
“There can be no emotion which can quite equal that which is associated with one’s childhood memories.
“The 1987 trip to Bangladesh remains vivid in my memory. My wife and I reached Dhaka on January 29 evening. It was 41 years since I had last gone there. I was overwhelmed at the turnout. Thousands had gathered to receive me.
“It was a return to my childhood. Our two-storeyed house still stood and I remembered how I had spent my holidays there with father. It was a different experience. My wife and I went to the first floor where we met Habibullah and his 90-year old mother, who had seen us as children…I have made trips to Bangladesh later but the trip in 1987 has always been different to me. Those who have suffered the pangs of partition will perhaps understand my emotions.”
Meeting with Fidel Castro
His meetings with Fidel Castro touched Basu deeply. He met him once in Cuba with President Castro dropping by unannounced and taking him to the airport as a farewell gesture.
“I had visited almost all socialist countries but unfortunately Cuba was not one of them. I was thus quite eager when the invitation came. I had met Fidel Castro at the DumDum airport many years back...I went to Havana via Madrid after a stopover at London. President Fidel Castro came over to the state guest house where we were staying…and discussed the global situation and the need to strengthen Indo-Cuban friendship. I was pleasantly surprised the next day when Castro made his way to our guest house unannounced and himself took us to the airport in a farewell gesture. I shall never forget this.”
On the Prime Minister issue
“The non-Left parties of the Front requested the CPI(M) to join the government and pleaded with me to head it. They felt that I was the right person to head a coalition government. That I had the experience. But we in the CPI(M) do not act like bourgeoisie parties; the policy and party directives are always more important than the individual. But the Janata Dal, Samajwati Party, Telugu Desam and AGP alongwith leaders like V.P. Singh and Mulayam – in fact almost everybody — kept up the clamour. The situation reached such a stage that it was necessary to discuss the issue at the party forum. The issue of participation in government was more important than that of my becoming Prime Minister.
“The issue was placed at the meeting and discussed threadbare. There was a natural difference of opinion; Surjeet and I favoured participation in government. But we were in a minority…The decision was announced officially after the meeting.
“The Front leadership was adamant. They refused to accept this decision of the central committee. It was quite uncomfortable actually; the way they went on insisting.
“We returned to brief the party leadership again. Many of the central committee members were packing their bags by then: they were asked to hang on. Some had left though.
“The central committee met for three hours on May 14 morning. The final decision remained unchanged.”