Marcus Dam

Kolkata: “A symbol of boundless energy” — there perhaps could be no better description of Subhas Chakraborty than the one made by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The man in white panama hat, white trousers and shirt, often controversial because of his straight talk, Subhas Chakraborty will be remembered as a mass leader with immense organisational skills. During his last days in office, he was busy parleying with private transport operators trying to talk them out of a call for an indefinite strike.

In his word and deeds, Subhas Chakraborty was deeply influenced by the veteran Marxist leader, Jyoti Basu — his “leader of leaders.” A promise he made to the nonagenarian leader on his 95th birthday on July 8 was that West Bengal would not stray from the path of Communism and the CPI(M) would not betray the trust of the people.

“Whenever we played football, Jyoti babu would say, ‘Subhas is the captain of my team,’ but in real life Jyoti Basu is my captain,” he had said on the occasion.

Born on March 18, 1942 at Mashali village in Dhaka district of what is today Bangladesh he came to West Bengal in 1947. He was initiated into politics when a student and became a member of the CPI in 1958. He joined the CPI (M) when it was formed in 1964. Subhas Chakraborty became a member of the West Bengal State Committee of the CPI(M) in 1971. He was first elected to the Assembly from the Belgachia East constituency in 1977 and has been an MLA ever since.

In 1982, he became Minister of State for Sports, Youth Services and Dairy Development. He went on to become a Cabinet Minister five years later when he was given charge of the Department of Sports, Youth Services and Tourism. In 1996, he was given charge of the Transport besides Sports. He was inducted into the CPI(M)’s State Secretariat in 2008.

He was also actively connected with student, youth and trade union movements and was in the forefront of the protests against the visit in 1969 of Robert McNamara, the then president of the World Bank, who was the U.S. Defence Secretary during much of the Vietnam War.