Chennai : They say that you must not speak ill of the dead. Going by this logic, I suppose we mustn’t use strong words about Adolf Hitler, Attila or Chengiz Khan. If you subscribe to that school of thinking, pray do not read further.

I seldom write about politics as I prefer to confine my writing to books and music, but the general feeling of “a great and principled son of India passing into the history books” got my goat. I therefore decided to present my viewpoint.

I would like to present a brief analysis of the achievements of that high priest of communism, Jyoti “The Candlelight” Basu. I say candlelight because I do not remember using electric lights during the eighteen years of his misrule that I had to endure. I make bold to say this because I lived there for thirty years.

“What shall we do with more power, eat it?”

He single handedly turned West Bengal into Waste Bengal. I remember sleepless nights in the hot summers, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year – he merely sipped his Scotch on the rocks in air conditioned comfort when we had 14 hour power cuts. This is a fact which even the WB government will not deny. Yes, 14 hr power cuts. When he was asked in the late 60-s why WB was not investing more in the power sector, he famously replied “What shall we do with more power, eat it?” It is mainly for this reason that we children hated him so much. Ask anyone who was a child in The Waste Land in the 70- and 80-s. Anyone. I repeat,anyone. He destroyed our childhood. There was not a single day when we could sit or study or sleep in peace. There just wasn’t enough power to go around. The Grand Geriatric thought that the hungry and dispossessed whom he ruled would eat it!! He went on to eat crow, but never mind.

He went on summer trips to the UK every year when we literally burnt. The newspapers parroted his line that his trips were made to attract foreign investment, would you believe it? That too after every single company had fled from his Waste Land . Even the venerable ITC, which like the boy in Casablanca , stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled, was forced to shift. Factories were under 24X7 lockouts, unemployment was rampant, and starvation levels rose faster than the hemlines of Kingfisher’s air hostesses. The only things which happened with sickening regularity were strikes and processions – micheels, as they were called.

The Kerala School of Communism has successfully taken this leaf from his book, and have elevated this to an art form. We can definitely expect a minister of Bandh-s, Processions, Hartal-s in the next Kerala Cabinet. The man reduced the entire state to a vast stinking slum.

And violence. Yes, always the blood curdling violence in the tradition of Stalin and Mao and other Communist gods. I am talking of the stomach churning violence that his goons would unleash at the slightest pretext. I remember in 1982 his thugs had battered to death 18 Ananda Margi-s in broad daylight. There was blood on the streets, I know, because I saw the blood. The maid who worked for us told us that everyone watched while his thugs systematically pounded the living daylights of these Ananda Margi-s whose crime we shall never know. My mother prevented me, a 17 yr old at that time, from going out, but I managed to sneak out in the evening to the Kasba overbridge where this had happened. I SAW THE BLOOD.

We also know how his goons cracked Mamata Banerjee’s skull when she led a procession against his misrule. Earlier, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, his goons had burnt a number of trams and buses when the fares were raised by 2 paise. And this was in Calcutta . In the villages, the slightest opposition to the party line meant certain loss of a few body parts if you were lucky, or death if you weren’t, and dismemberment piece by piece if you made him really angry.

The CPI(M)-RSS clashes in Kannur were closely covered in the Press, and gained national notoriety. No one thought it fit to report on what this wolf in sheep’s clothing in Bengal had been doing all these years. And the best part was that this charlatan managed to convey a sense of decency when he spoke in his quaint British accented English. The Nandigram incidents in recent times only highlighted this aspect of his legacy, and poor old Buddhadeb carried the can for the murder and mayhem which had become a part of the Bengal culture. Hail Jyoti of the Bloodied Hands.

ENGLISH WAS BANNED IN GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS”

He single handedly destroyed the education system. With one fell stroke, he took Bengal back by at least 25 yr. Let anyone, even party apparatchiks who can bring themselves to read this, dispute this fact. He banned the study of English in government schools while he himself had the benefit of an English education – Middle temple, old chap, you know how it is, can you pass me the Black Label please? Don’t forget the ice.

“Self anointed leader of the homeless and the oppressed”

But then hypocrisy has always been a hallmark of the communists. He ensured that his industrialist son Chandan’s biscuit factories never had any strikes while the rest of Waste Bengal degenerated gradually from disorder to chaos, and thence into total pandemonium. He, the holier-than- thou Communist, and the self anointed leader of the homeless, the oppressed, the depressed, the dispossessed, and pretty much everyone else, had nothing to say when his profligate son got married to the niece of that arch capitalist and anti Communist Swraj Paul. The parallel from the Kerala School is about how that grand old Communist EMS ensured that his children married only people from his own caste! Grandpa Jyoti did not oppose his grand children attending the American school in Calcutta !!!! However he was mean enough to name the street on which the American Consulate stands as Ho Chi Minh Sarani. He certainly had a sense of black humor, our beloved Jyoti “Candlelight” Basu. Thus while the American consulate would regularly get brickbatted by his hordes at the slightest pretext, the American school was always safe. Miraculous, isn’t it? He was forced to repeal his anti English decision (I call it the Andhakar Act perpetrated by Jyoti the Candlelight) because even the Party apparatchiks had started to question this – they too began sending their children to “Inglis mediaam” schools. Even the Faithfool have their limits.

“BUDDHADEB WAS FIRED ON THE SPOT”

When the ex chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (he was Information Minister then) stated publicly that the CPI(M) had become a haven of thugs and goons, do you know what Jyoti babu did? Yes, you’re right. He sacked him on the spot. It was a much chastened Buddhadeb who came back in sackcloth and ashes a couple of years later. He was reinstated, and then crowned heir apparent.

 “Comrade you are done”

He was an opportunist of the first water. I remember the Illustrated Weekly of India had run a series of articles praising Indira Gandhi after she was assassinated. Everyone was going gaga about what a great democrat and saviour she was!! Exactly a year later, when they decided to show both sides of the coin, they invited Dr. Ashok Mitra to write a two part essay on her. Dr. Mitra, a World Bank ex employee, was Grandpa Jyoti’s Finance Minister during his first and second terms. He had a Ph.D in economics from one of the Ivy League colleges, and was a brilliant and erudite scholar. Pure aqua regia, not ink, filled his pen. The essay was a real hatchet job, and showed Mrs. Gandhi’s true character – venal, corrupt and crooked. Guess what lovable Grandpa Jyoti did – yessirree, you got it Right First Time, he just booted Dr. Mitra out of the cabinet. Guess why. Because Rajiv conveyed his displeasure unequivocally. That showed what kind of camaraderie existed between Communists.

“My precious” – Gollum, Lord of the Rings 

He craved power like a drunkard craves booze, or to use a modern day metaphor, like ND Tiwari craved nubile women. Nothing wrong fundamentally, I suppose, to crave something you like, but I say this because of the tendency of pinko rags like The Hindu to paint Jyoti Basu as a selfless man of high principles who was ever ready to give up his chair for the sake of principles blah blah hah hah etc. His Geriatric Highness was ready, ever ready I should say, to become PM and President, but his comrades, for reasons best known to them, prevented him despite the tremendous pressure he brought to bear on them. And he was churlish enough to say that this was a “historic blunder”. Historic, because it had deprived him of his place in history.

He was the man who said “Erom to hoye thake (these things keep happening)” when a woman was gangraped by his Communist thugs in broad daylight during his 24 year misrule. Similar sentiments were re-echoed by another Communist warlord of the Kerala School – EK Nayanar, that fraud who was portrayed by the Party as a lovable humbug. When it was pointed out to him that an American tourist had been raped in Kerala during his rule, he said that getting raped to Americans was like drinking tea (“chaya kudikkunna madiri aanu”). As a Malayali brought up in Bengal , I had the opportunity to see at close quarters the hypocrisy and the chicanery which were the hallmarks in both schools of the Communist religion.

“Champagne socialism” 

Despite all his cant about secularism and anti casteism, Waste Bengal was the land where you had to have a proper “title” – the Bengali word for surname – to move up. And true to his ilk, Jyoti Basu had only Bhattacharya- s and Mukherjee-s and Ganguly-s, not to mention Chatterjee-s and Bose-s and Sen-s and other upper castes in his cabinet. Not a single low caste or tribal found accommodation in his cabinet or inner circle. What do you think is happening in Lalgarh today? He continued the policy of exploitation of the tribals and the lower classes by telling them that it was in their best interests to vote CPM – pass the Scotch, old chap, and be snappy about it, will you?

 “Mystery”

Like Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP who was ready to become the PM when someone else had worked for the party’s victory, Jyoti Basu found himself in the CM’s chair because Pramode Dasgupta willed it. It was the ( Havana ) cigar chomping Dasgupta who almost single handedly won the 1977 elections. However for reasons best known to him, he decided to stay out of the government, and handed over the reins of power to the scotch swilling bhadralok leader of the dispossessed (sarbohara, as they say in Bengal) Jyoti. I keep talking of scotch and cigars because a Havana cigar or a peg of Black Label cost more than a month’s wages of the people whom they purported to lead.

When Pramode Dasgupta died an untimely death, a nondescript Saroj Mukherjee was made Chairman of the Left Front, though what he did remained a mystery to everyone, including himself. Jyoti Basu then had untrammeled power. With Pramode-da out of the way, Jyoti babu ran both the government and the party like Mao, and Saroj babu kept himself busy by reading the newspapers regularly. Power corrupted, and absolute power corrupted absolutely.

“Electoral Fraud”

While the Mulayam-s and the Laloo-s, not to mention the Nayanar-s and the Indira-s (how can we forget her?) rigged the elections on election day, our man Jyoti was a systematic sort. Nothing so crude for our barrister babu. He started the process 5 years in advance by tampering with the voters’ lists. There wasn’t anyone like TN Seshan in those days, so our sarboharader neta could do whatever he liked. Hundreds and thousands of people suddenly found themselves struck off the rolls. The cadre systematically infiltrated every area of the establishment – the teaching fraternity in the primary schools, the colleges, the universities; the lower level judiciary; the panchayats; the lower rung government officers; the police; all establishments of government patronage – every single aspect of government was taken over by the apparatchiks, who were all paid for with state funds. And so they went from strength to strength while the rest of India watched and congratulated the man who gave a new meaning to the word disinformation. And yet, people still say he was a gentleman. By his own admission, “I’m not a gentleman, I’m a Communist”.

According to Lord Meghnad Desai, an admirer of his, Jyoti Basu is supposed to have made the following remarks about the Tiananmen massacre when he visited London en route to the US (yes, US, would you believe it) for his treatment – “When you open the window, flies come in”. Thus spake the great democrat.

He tacitly supported the Chinese invasion of India , and refused to salute the tricolor until the 80-s. All these are FACTS, although the Communists will come up with some stupid explanation or the other for these.

The great achievements of the Communist rule were during the first phase – from 1977 to 1982. That was when Operation Barga was rolled out, and it was the handiwork of Nanigopal Bhattacharya, if I am able to recollect his name correctly. This single operation enabled the CPI(M) to have a hard core cadre, and with their help, they systematically let loose a reign of terror which has now been replaced by Bangladeshi and Rohingya illegal immigrants of a particular path.

Let’s get one thing clear. At a time in  Indian politics, when even hard core thugs like Laloo and Mulayam have barely managed to last more than 5-6 years at a time. The question to be asked is, then how did Grandpa Jyoti manage it? 23 years on the trot, and are we to infer that he stayed there because he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless and generally spread sweetness and light? He stayed on top because he was more ruthless and cold blooded than all these worthies combined. As simple as that. He was right up there in the Mao and Stalin class – totally ruthless, entirely self seeking, and sickeningly pretentious. I am here to serve you, now move aside else I am gonna kick your ass, old chap, pass me the scotch will you, there’s a dear?

I would like to believe that Bengali-s have cast him and his entire legacy to where it rightfully belongs – the rubbish heap of history.

Let’s not shed any tears for Jyoti Basu.

Image courtesy : Biswarup Ganguly