New Delhi: Known for his blunt speak and great integrity acknowledged across the political divide, veteran communist AB Bardhan was among the last few links to the freedom movement who had played a major role in the trade union movement and national politics.
A former General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan was a witness to the ups and downs of the Left movement and is credited with steering the CPI during a period when politics of coalition became the norm in the nineties.
He played a leading role in his party joining the coalition government at the Centre in 1996 when his party veteran Indrajit Gupta became the Home Minister of India.
Even after stepping down from the post of party General Secretary in March 2012, a role he had performed for four consecutive terms spanning 16 years, Bardhan continued to guide his party members, firmly believing in the maxim--"once a Communist, always a Communist."
Soon after the Left Front's debacle at the hands of the Trinamool Congress in the 2011 assembly polls in its one-time bastion West Bengal, he would warn Left leaders "either change or you are out".
Bardhan had also reiterated late Marxist Jyoti Basu's statement that not accepting the Prime Minister's post in 1996 was a "historic blunder" of the Left.
He had later said: "That was an opportunity, a lost one, to show to the country that Communist politics is different. Within the limitations of a capitalist system also, we must have tried that."
Born on September 25, 1925 in Sylhet (now in Bangladesh), Bardhan began his political career in 1940s during the freedom struggle as a leader of All India Students Federation and was drawn into the Communist stream and joined the CPI. He was arrested over 20 times and spent over four years in jail.
He was later given the charge of trade unions in Maharashtra where he established his impeccable credentials as a fiery trade union leader. He later rose to become the General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress, the oldest trade union in the country.
Though Bardhan contested several elections, he could succeed only once in 1957 when he was elected as member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, that too as an Independent from Nagpur. He could not make it to Parliament as he lost two general elections in 1967 and 1980 from the Vidarbha city.
The veteran leader moved to Delhi in 1990s and was elected CPI's Deputy General Secretary and later as its General Secretary in 1996, replacing Indrajit Gupta when he became Home Minister.
In national politics, he, along with another Marxist veteran Harkishan Singh Surjeet, played the elder statesman role, talking to non-Congress, non-BJP parties to forge the Third Front. Both of them were also instrumental in the formation of the Congress-led UPA-I government by supporting it from outside.
An avid reader, Bardhan always maintained that it were the books on Communism which influenced him to join the Communist movement. He read works in various languages including Bengali, Marathi, Hindi, English and French.
When asked by journalists about his autobiography, Bardhan used to say that biographies are "an exercise in self-congratulation and meant to blame others. I will not write."
Bardhan is survived by Ahmadabad-based doctor-daughter Alka and son Ashok, who teaches economics in University of California, Berkeley, in the US.