CPI(M): Life after Jyoti Basu

The last legacy that Basu leaves is a spacer his party at the Centre. A Left liberal heading the Union government should give the Indian polity a new direction.

Jyoti Basu ended his tenure as the longest serving chief minister ever in India in October this year. It had been almost exactly a year since he had first made public his desire to demit office on the ground that his health was not up to the task of governing a fractious state with numerous political, economic and social problems. And, to be fair to him, for some time Basu had been operating on less than all cylinders, spending lesser and lesser time in the state's administrative headquarters at Writers' Buildings, with Buddhadev Bhattacharya, his deputy, shouldering more and more of the quotidian administrative load. The public and the media were, nevertheless, taken aback by the suddenness of this decision to retire. Intense speculation about the party's motives behind letting the 'patriarch' go was fuelled primarily because of the timing of the decision.

In the first place, the elections to the State Assembly are scheduled for early next year. And it was more than conceivable that Basu could have kept going with an even more attenuated workload for another six months or so. His health did not seem to have registered any dramatic decline. Secondly, the party announced its decision to let Basu step down just a few days after its special conference, held in Trivandrum had endorsed his line that in future the party could participate in a coalition government at the Centre, should the opportunity present itself. This was a decisive victory for Basu's views over the policy espoused by the 'hardline', and hitherto majority, group within the party.

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Himal Southasian