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'Jyoti Basu was the great PM India never had'

January 18, 2010 09:17 IST

The Indian community in Britain on Sunday mourned the death of Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu, with leading NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul saying that the veteran leader was the 'great prime minister India never had'.

"In Basu, we have lost a great son of Bengal, a great Indian and for me a great friend and a great prime minister India never had," Lord Paul said in his heartfelt condolences. Basu, who died in Kolkata at the age of 95, was the longest-serving chief minister of West Bengal.

He was offered the prime minister's chair in 1996 in the then United Front coalition government but his party CPI-M declined the offer. Lord Paul, who is also British smbassador for overseas business, said, "The country has lost a very warm human being who ruled his state with compassion, giving a firm leadership without ever losing his cool. In his time the state progressed the most and he gave the best law and order. A very committed and disciplined party worker, he always sacrificed his personal gain for party discipline."

The Indian Workers' Association recalled that Basu visited Britain many times and addressed rallies and public meetings organised by the IWA. "His immense contribution to the Left and democratic movement and the strengthening the federal structure of India by championing Centre-State relations through engagement of all chief ministers will be part of his immeasurable legacy. Jyoti Basu was truly a Statesman without parallel."

The Association said, "Comrade Basu led by example and became a pillar for democracy. He challenged the extremes of Left adventurism and the fascistic communalism of the right.

"His courage and conviction in trusting the people were perhaps best illustrated when he personally went on to the streets and neighbourhoods of Kolkatta to protect the Sikhs and other minorities from attacks following Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination in New Delhi in 1984. The people never let him down."

The Indian Journalists' Association noted with sorrow the passing away of Jyoti Basu. "As a student, Basu was called to the Bar in London and had a great affection for this city, where he felt entirely at home," IJA President Ashis Ray said. Basu studied law in London from 1934 to 1939 and returned to India to participate in the freedom struggle.

"As chief minister of West Bengal, he would visit London almost every summer and took the trouble to meet members of the IJA and apprise them about his perceptions of prevailing Indian politics.

"A distinguished feature about Basu was that outside India, he never publicly highlighted the differences between his party and other political parties. Unity in Diversity was an expression he frequently used to describe India."

H S Rao In London