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Use power to bring welfare, not to dominate people: Somnath Chatterjee

Indrani Dutta
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Tribute: Schoolchildren place flowers near a statue of veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu during a function to mark his 96th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Thursday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
Tribute: Schoolchildren place flowers near a statue of veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu during a function to mark his 96th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Thursday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

Power has to be used to help bring about people's welfare and not as a means to dominate them, and one cannot afford to ignore the feelings and perceptions of the common man. These oft-repeated words of veteran leader Jyoti Basu were recalled by Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker, at a function here on Thursday to pay tributes to the departed leader on his 96 {+t} {+h} birth anniversary.

Delivering the first Jyoti Basu Memorial Lecture, Mr. Chatterjee said that as Mr. Basu always emphasised, “only in the hands of a united and eternally vigilant citizenry and a leadership committed to the cause of the people will democracy be safe.”

The lecture was organised by the West Bengal Forum for Parliamentary Studies and was held on a lawn in the State Legislative Assembly where Mr. Basu sat for decades, either on the treasury benches or opposite.

Former Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, one of Mr. Basu's dear friends, sent in a letter saying that although his kidney ailments bound him down, he hoped that Mr. Basu's spirit lived on in the House.

Invoking the leader time and again in his speech, Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu always believed that “it is man and man alone who creates history,” and “despite many crests and thrusts, the people will finally emerge victorious and gain freedom in a classless society, free from exploitation of any form.”

Mr. Chatterjee said Mr. Basu had tremendous capacity to assess the significance of developing situations, political or otherwise, and could quickly react to them most aptly.

“He set an outstanding example of how to run a coalition government in harmony, and with understanding among the partners,” Mr. Chatterjee added.

The implementation of land reforms and devolution of power of governance to the grass-root level were among Mr. Basu's greatest achievements, but with his pragmatism, he also ushered in the 1994 Industrial Policy of the State government, Mr. Chatterjee said.

Striking a poignant note during his brief speech, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said it was a painful moment for him to talk about a man whose association had been an asset in his life.

“Mr. Basu was imprisoned without trial, but he never meted out that treatment to anyone. Rather, he pioneered the setting up of a State-level Human Rights Commission. He held aloft secular ideals, and the image and stature that has got inextricably linked with him is one that does the State proud,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.


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