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Friday, January 29, 2010

Edition 9: News


JYOTI BASU NO MORE
In a political career spanning six decades, Jyoti Basu never stepped out of party line. Except once. Even his unflappable poise cracked in the face
of his party's obstinate resolve not to join the non-BJP, non-Congress United Front government at the Centre after the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. He could have gone where no Communist had ever gone. The Prime Minister's chair was his for the taking. But the party would have none of it.
Basu called the decision a historic blunder. But, he was not one to split hairs over what could have been. He never contested the Lok Sabha polls, but continued to influence national politics till the very end.
Born into privilege (his father was a US-trained doctor ) and educated in elite institutions (St Xavier's School and Presidency College), few would have expected Basu to grow into one of the most important Communist leaders of his time. His family had connections with revolutionaries fighting for India's freedom, but it was during his trip to the UK in 1935 to become a barrister that he became influenced by the Communist movement. He started frequenting study circles, where he was initiated into Marxism by Communist leaders like Rajani Palme Dutt. His father had sent him to England to try and get into the ICS, but he returned in 1940 to become a Communist Party of India card holder.
In 1944, CPI leaders sent him to work with trade unions, first among port and dock workers and then among railway employees. His career as a legislator spanning 55 years started in 1946 when the electoral college comprising railway employees voted him to the Bengal Assembly. One of his main achievements was securing the release of political prisoners in 1946 from the Suhrawardi government. He was himself repeatedly arrested after the Communist Party was banned shortly after Independence in 1948, his first arrest coming on March 16 that year.
The general election in 1952 saw the emergence of Basu as one of the ablest parliamentarians of the country. Elected to the West Bengal assembly from the Baranagar constituency, he, along with fellow MLA Ratanlal Brahman, emerged as the main opposition to the Bidhan Chandra Roy government. Basu was recognized as the leader of the opposition.
The period till the split in the Communist Party and the formation of the CPM in 1965 saw the consolidation of Basu's position both in the party and also as opposition leader. In 1953, he was unanimously elected the state secretary of the party. Among the major agitations in which he participated in this period was one against tram fair rise in Kolkata, an agitation by teachers in 1954 for higher pay, the proposed post and telegraph strike and the food movement in 1959.
The general election in 1967 paved the way for the short-lived first United Front government in West Bengal. Basu as deputy CM took up the reins of the government for the first time. This period also saw his maturity in coalition politics, which saw fruition in 1977 when the Left Front government was formed. For the next 23 years, he successfully headed a coalition of like-minded parties before relinquishing voluntarily the post of chief minister, continuing in active politics only as politburo member of CPM.
The 13-month-long second United Front government was voted to power in 1969. Ajoy Mukherjee became the chief minister for the second time and Basu his deputy. He was also given the home portfolio. During this period, Basu demon-strated his personal courage by facing alone a large group of armed policemen who stormed the assembly premises to protest the death of a colleague in a clash with SUCI supporters.
The fall of the second UF govern-ment over differences between Basu and Mukherjee and two years of political turmoil that followed led to an election in 1972. Alleging massive rigging by Congress, Basu withdrew from the contest at Baranagar. CPM and a number of other Left parties decided to boycott the assembly.
The Emergency in 1975 and the general election in 1977 saw the beginning of a new phase in Bengal. As leader of the Left Front (then sans CPI), Basu romped home and became CM. Thereafter, he went on to create history by leading for almost a quarter of a century a Marxist government within the ambits of a capitalist structure, using parliamentary methods. It has been a unique experiment in the history of communism itself, which continues even after Basu's retirement.
Under Basu's rule, the twin measure of operation barga and panchayat election changed the face of rural Bengal. Eviction of sharecroppers was stopped and their share in the crop ensured by recording their names. Ceiling surplus land was vested and distributed to the rural poor. Democracy was introduced at the grassroots by holding panchayat election. The rural poor became the beneficiaries of government projects.
But he wasn't an unqualified success. Basu's tenure as CM saw Bengal sink into precipitious economic decline. The state which was once India's most industrialized witnessed an exodus of industry as trade unions ran riot. Towards the end of his tenure, Basu attempted to reverse this trend, but Bengal has still not been able to undo the damage.
He also failed to prevent abolition of English from the primary level in government and aided schools in the state, which contributed to a mass migration of several middle-class families out of the state. The resignations of two senior cabinet colleagues Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee & Benoy Chowdhury alleging corruption in the govern-ment and nexus with contractors were major embarrassments for him.
Still, Basu went from strength to strength, acquiring a pivotal role in national politics. It began with the CPM's association with Jayprakash Narayan's movement during Emergency. Prior to the Lok Sabha election in 1989 that brought V P Singh to power, West Bengal had become a focal point of opposition politics, hosting meetings and conclaves. As the years went by, there was talk of his focus shifting from the state to the national scene.
With BJP coming to power at the Centre in 1998, the staunch secularist was quick to identify communal forces as a major threat and felt the Left should face the saffron challenge along with other secular forces, including Congress, its political opponent in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. It wasn't an easy task though. Basu and former CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet took the lead in bringing about a change in the party's mindset towards Congress that finally culminated in the Left-UPA combination six years later in 2004.
The longest serving chief minister, Basu handed down his mantle to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in 2000. Since then, he had been acting as the guardian of the party and the Left Front.
Call it a coincidence, but Basu turned 95 the day CPM decided to pull out of the UPA government in the Centre over the Indo-US nuclear deal. When Left Front leaders called on his residence that day, the veteran leader stressed the need for the Front partners to stick together. An emotional Basu told a crowd at his residence, “I have no idea how long I will live now but it is my wish to see the Left Front gets a chance to finish another term.''
EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI
The World Health Organisation has estimated that between 40,000 to 50,000 people in Haiti have been killed by the earthquake, the United Nations said.
"WHO/PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation) estimates that the number of dead ranges between 40,000 and 50,000 people," said a
Contd. on
situation report issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Haitian government estimated on Friday that more than 50,000 people were killed and 250,000 injured by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck on Tuesday 12th Jan 2010.
GOOGLE CHINA CONTROVERSY
Google Inc enters a second week of high stakes brinkmanship with China's government, amid speculation the firm has decided to pull out of the world's biggest internet market over cyber-spying concerns.
Google, the world's most popular search engine, said last week it was thinking about quitting China after suffering a sophisticated cyber-attack on its network that resulted in theft of its intellectual property.
The company has said it is no longer willing to filter content on its Chinese language google.cn engine, and will try to negotiate a legal unfiltered search engine, or exit the market.
Most of the filters on google.cn were still in place on Sunday, though controls over some searches, including the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, appear to have been loosened.
The Google announcement captured the attention of China's 384 million netizens, the world's largest internet market by users, with blogs and local media quoting unnamed insiders as saying Google has already decided to close its offices in China.
MUMBAI WINS RANJI TROPHY
Defending champions Mumbai pulled off a thrilling six-run win over a fighting Karnataka to clinch the coveted Ranji Trophy title for the 39th time on Thursday.
Mumbai's 39th championship win looked unlikely when Manish Pandey and Ganesh Satish were at the crease as Karnataka chased a mammoth 338-run target.
The duo, who had come together when Karnataka were in dire straits at 46 for three, batted with gusto, assurance and caution to take the fight into the enemy camp, raising 209 runs for the fourth wicket.
As long as Pandey, who made a magnificent 144 (18 fours, one six) in trying circumstances, was at the square Karnataka were in the reckoning of winning their seventh Ranji title.
But once he departed, caught at slip by Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer off left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla minutes before lunch, Mumbai slowly but assuredly started taking control of the game.
While Pandey, who amassed a whopping 882 runs in the season, carted the cherry around the park with impunity, Satish batted with circumspection.
Satish, who laboured hard for 318 minutes, made 75 before being adjudged leg before wicket to Dhawal Kulkarni.
Stuart Binny (17), Sunil Joshi (16) and R Vinay Kumar (15) batted with resolve to take Karnataka closer to the target.
But quick strikes by Kulkarni and Ajit Agarkar (5 for 81) ensured that Mumbai emerged triumphant in the end.
This closely contested final would remembered for the outstanding performances of Vinayak Samant (67), Avishkar Salvi (5 for 31), Daval Kulkarni (87 and 3 for 80), Ajit Agarkar (5 for 81), Manish Pandey (144), Abhimanyu Mithun (3 for 56 and 6 for 71) and R Vinay Kumar (4 for 61 and 3 for 78).
The sporting wicket was prepared by a tennis court curator from Mysore.
Brief scores:
Mumbai: 233 (Vinayak Samant 67, Vinay Kumar 4-61) and 234 (Dhawal Kulkarni 87, Abhimanyu Mithun 6-71) Karnataka: 130 (Aavishkar Salvi 5-31) and 331 (Manish Pandey 144, Ajit Agarkar 5-81)

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