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'Country has lost champion of the underprivileged'

January 17, 2010 16:57 IST

Leaders cutting across the political spectrum mourned the death of veteran Marxist Jyoti Basu on Sunday, describing him as a towering personality and a powerful regional voice who had played crucial roles in the national political scene.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani said in his death, the nation had lost an eminent statesman who had earned the unique distinction of being the longest serving chief minister.

"During his political career he displayed his abilities as a leader of the people, an able administrator and an eminent statesman," Patil said in her condolence message.

Vice President Ansari said the sagacity and leadership of the former West Bengal chief minister "at both the state and national levels have been a source of inspiration and guidance".

Describing 95-year-old Basu as a powerful regional voice in the national political scene, the prime minister said he had turned to the veteran Marxist leader on many occasions for his advice on important issues and the response was always pragmatic.

"In a political career spanning more than six decades, the veteran communist leader steered his party to power in West Bengal, leaving a legacy of uninterrupted rule by the Left Front that he forged through his leadership and legendary skills in building consensus," he said.

Advani, who was in Mumbai, said the late Marxist was among the greats. "He was a stalwart... a great leader".

While the Congress said Basu was one of the country's "worthiest sons", the BJP said he was one of the tallest contemporary leaders of Indian politics.

In a condolence resolution, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said its veteran leader was a Marxist who neither wavered in his convictions nor was dogmatic in his approach, becoming a source of inspiration for the Left movement in the country.

The party polit bureau said Basu, who joined the Communist Party in 1946, played a significant role in the growth of the party in Bengal and became a symbol of the Left, democratic and secular forces in the country.

The Communist Party of India leader A B Bardhan said Basu was "fought to the end. We express our heartfelt sadness on his demise".

Senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said Basu was a man "committed to the service of his people, his ideology and a sense of idealism".

Recounting his close intimacy with Basu, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "He was a towering personality and perhaps in contemporary politics, there was no other personality as much charismatic as he was".

Mukherjee also recalled the contribution of Basu in formation of the first United Progressive Alliance government supported by Left in 2004. "In fact, he was an architect of the first UPA government in 2004, which was supported by the Left parties from outside".

Home Minister P Chidambaram said Basu "strode like a colossus on the Indian political scene for several decades. He was a great patriot, a great democrat and a great source of inspiration".

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who was in Kathmandu, said, "The country has lost a steadfast champion of the causes of underprivileged."

The CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said an era has passed with the death of Marxist Jyoti Basu and that no one can replace him.

Party leader Sitaram Yechury said Basu was a disciplined party member who set an example for all by abiding by party's decision which rejected a proposal to make him Prime Minister in the 1990s though he was in favour of it.

As messages of grief poured from all over the country, the All India Forward Bloc described the passing away of Basu as a "a big and irreparable loss... for the entire Left, working class and progressive movement of the country".

CPI national secretary D Raja said the death of Basu is a great loss for the entire communist movement as well as for the nation.

Describing Basu as one of the greatest communist leaders, the country ever produced, Raja said the CPI-M patriarch was an "architect of modern Left politics in the post independence India. He was a great legacy, a history by himself."

While Janta Dal United President Sharad Yadav said Basu's contribution to Indian polity is unparallelled, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan said his passing away marked the end of a chapter of India's political struggle for empowerment of the weaker sections.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan issued separate messages condoling Basu's death.
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