Jyoti Basu, who passed away on Sunday, was unique in several ways. He unhesitatingly made way for the next generation of leadership. An ideologue, he remained a Marxist during the historical split of the communist party and became a founding member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau. He steered his party to victory in West Bengal. His regime was responsible for the revolutionary measures on the land front. His support for industrialisation of the State deserves special mention. It was his love for West Bengal that made him invite Mamata Banerjee for talks to resolve the Nandigram issue.
The democrat in Basu was visible when he described the CPI(M)'s stand rejecting the offer of the Prime Minister's post to him in 1996 as a "historic blunder." This lament was not from a power-hungry politician but from a leader who thought a chance to translate the communist ideals and doctrines into action had been missed.
Comrade Basu commanded the respect of even his critics. A mentor of many young cadres, Basu was a disciplined communist. He refused the offer of prime ministerial berth because the CPI(M) did not deem it appropriate to join the government, even though he thought the decision was a "historic blunder."
He was a severe critic of the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. Yet he enjoyed the best of relations with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee, Mamata Banerjee and others. All this speaks volumes of the towering personality of Basu da.
Jyoti Basu was the quintessential politician and true proponent of the communist ideology. He deftly combined the best of both and held sway over the politics of West Bengal for 23 years as its Chief Minister and, later, as its patriarch and faithful party member. His powerful presence on the Indian political scene was such that the Union government, irrespective of the party in power, paid heed to his views.
In Jyoti Basu's passing, the nation has lost an illustrious son. He demonstrated how principles should govern politics and not vice versa. His agrarian reforms for the landless poor in West Bengal enabled him to enjoy an unquestioned bond with the State that benefited from his stewardship for more than two decades.
He proved his respect for party discipline when he declined the offer of Prime Minister's post because it did not find favour with the CPI(M) - a quality that is rare in the days of power hunger. His inspiring faith in - and commitment to - party ideology placed him as a tall figure among his contemporaries.
A gentleman politician has disappeared from the political arena. Jyoti Basu was known for his simplicity, honesty, straightforwardness and secular outlook. That he headed the tough and turbulent State of West Bengal for almost a quarter of a century speaks volumes of his statesmanship. He gracefully made way for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in 2000.
As representatives of the Bharathi Tamil Sangam and the Tamil Maanavar Mandram of Kolkata, some of us approached him decades ago with a request to rename a street in the city after the famous poet Subramania Bharathi. The meeting was an unforgettable experience.
The grand old man of Indian politics might have passed away but he will be remembered forever for his administrative qualities, unique renunciation, adherence to party discipline and progressive mindset. He successfully led the government for 23 years, maintained communal harmony in West Bengal and pursued land reforms which did a world of good for the landless.
In a country where politicians refuse to retire, Basu voluntarily handed over the reins of chief ministership to his deputy. The post of Prime Minister was offered to him on a platter, but he graciously yielded to the wishes of the Polit Bureau without a fuss.
And by donating his organs and body, Jyoti Basu has rendered a great service to humanity and science.
In the demise of Jyoti Basu, the country has lost one of the tallest leaders whose ideas and ideals changed people's views on communists. Basu was the most deserving candidate when the Prime Minister's job was offered to him in 1996.
The CPI(M)'s survival after it broke away from the CPI was, in a large measure, thanks to Basu's political farsightedness.
A stalwart and legendary figure has passed into history. A tall leader of impeccable reputation and stature, Jyoti Basu strode the political scene like a colossus serving his State and nation. We salute his service to the nation.