Jyoti Basu


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(b. Calcutta, 8 Jul. 1914; d. Calcutta 17 Jan. 2010)

Indian; Chief Minister of West Bengal 1977–2000, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Educated at St Xavier's School and College, Basu studied in England, where he qualified as a barrister at the Middle Temple. During his stay in England Basu became actively associated with the India League and the Federation of Indian Students in England. He was the Secretary of London Majlis and made contacts with the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Basu returned to Calcutta in 1940 and became a leader of the Eastern Bengal Railroad Workers' Union. He was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946. After partition, he became a member of the West Bengal Assembly but was arrested when the Communist Party of India was banned following its call for open revolt. He was released upon the orders of the High Court and remained a Legislative Assembly Member between 1952 and 2001.

In the 1950s Basu, with Parmode Das Gupta, became the joint leader of the West Bengal Communists. He became state party secretary and led the parliamentary tactics of the CPI in Bengal against the Congress. The anti-Congress nature of Bengal Communism led Basu to align with the Communist Party of India (CPI(M) following the division of the Communist Party of India in 1964.

In 1967 Basu became Deputy Chief Minister in a coalition United Front government in Bengal in which the CPI(M) was one of the leading parties. This coalition collapsed after eight months. Fresh elections were held in February 1969 in which the CPI(M) emerged as the largest party. Basu was again Deputy Chief Minister in a United Front government that lasted until 1971.

In 1977 Basu was elected to the Parliament from Satgachia. The CPI(M) also won a majority in the Bengal Legislative Assembly. Basu became Chief Minister of West Bengal and under his leadership the CPI(M) won successive elections (1982, 1987, 1992, 1996). It has since won the 2001 and 2006 elections, with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as Chief Minister.

Basu was a member of the CPI(M)'s Politbureau From 1964. He was the main influence in shaping the party's domestic and international policy. Of particular importance, since 1991, has been the tactical support given to parties and groupings opposed to the Hindu revivalist Bharatiya Janata Party. This has brought the CPI(M) closer to Congress but the party has avoided an outright coalition.

Basu is recognized as a clever tactician who through the use of parliamentarism created the conditions for the success of Communism in West Bengal. He had a high reputation as a political leader and, following the national elections to parliament (1996), was considered as one of the possible candidates for the post of Prime Minister.

Subjects: Politics.

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