CPIM on Monday launched the birth centenary celebrations of legendary Marxist leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu with floral tributes, meetings and processions .
With the demand for more power to states rising from many corners of the country now, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat today recalled that it was Jyoti Basu who had first raised the demand for restructuring of Centre-state relations.
"We are now hearing about states demanding special status, but it was in the beginning of 1980s that Jyoti Basu first raised his voice for the restructuring of Centre-state relation," he told a programme to mark Basu's birth centenary.
Karat's views were shared by CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose who felt that during the late 70s and 80s Basu's advocacy of more power to states had turned him into a focal point.
He lashed out at the state government for its dilly dallying in holding panchayat polls in the state.
He also hailed Basu's uncompromising fight against communalism.
"Jyoti Basu throughout his life had fought against communalism. During anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and riots in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition, communal harmony in West Bengal had remained in tact under Basu's leadership," he pointed out while paying tribute to him.
The state assembly, where Basu was a member for 49 years, paid him glowing tributes. His portrait was garlanded among others by former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, assembly speaker Biman Banerjee, his predecessor HA Halim and leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.
Chatterjee recalled Basu's deep respect for parliamentary democracy, saying he considered the legislature "as the temple of democracy".
"When Basu became a legislator, the CPI (the undivided Communist Party of India) did not have many members. But despite that, as an opposition leader, Basu showed how the floor of the assembly could be used in the people's interest, how the assembly procedures could be used to reach the voice of the people to the government and the ministry," he said.
"When I joined politics, he told me 'This is the best platform to serve the people'. These words still ring in my ears."
Chatterjee refered to Basu's fight for strengthening the federal structure of the Indian constitution and his campaign for more powers for the state.
In the morning, women, physically challenged people and children carrying Basu's portrait took part in a large rally from Indira Bhawan, where Basu, a founding member of the CPI-M, spent his last years in the satellite township of Salt Lake.
There were songs and slogans eulogising the leader, who holds the record for the longest continuous chief ministerial tenure in independent India - from 1977 till he voluntarily stepped down in 2000.
Holding aloft the red flag, the participants marched to Indira Bhawan where Chatterjee, Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh and other leaders garlanded his portrait.