New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi
on Sunday described Marxist veteran Jyoti Basu as a towering
figure on the national scene, a tireless crusader against
communalism and all sorts of obscurantism and a true patriot
who always put the national interest above everything else.
In a letter addressed to Chandan Basu, the son of the
CPI(M) leader, Gandhi also struck a personal note saying, "I
have the warmest memories of our many meetings --- of his
charm and grace and deep humanity....At this time of grief my
thoughts are with you and your family."
She also said that she, her husband late Rajiv Gandhi and
her mother-in-law late Indira Gandhi (both former Prime
Ministers) always held Basu in high esteem.
Gandhi, who is also the UPA Chairperson, recalled Basu`s
contribution to the formation of the UPA government with Left
support in 2004.
"He contributed to the formation of UPA government in
2004 and we continued to count on him for his wise counsel
even after he retired from political life," she said adding
that not just the people of West Bengal and his millions of
political followers, but the entire nation is in mourning.
"He was a tireless crusader against communalism,
fundamentalism, casteism and all kinds of the obscurantism, a
warrior for social justice and equality and for eradication of
poverty, a true patriot, who always kept the national interest
above all else. He was a towering figure in our national life,
whose noble vision, superb judgement and depth of experience
we all valued greatly," she said.
"Jyoti Basu did not go gentle into the good night. He
fought bravely till his last breath, just as he did throughout
his life. And what a rich fulfilled and glorious life he had.
He served his country, his party and his state with
whole-hearted dedication for over half a century," Gandhi said
in her condolence message.
Congress sources said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,
also Bengal PCC chief, will attend the cremation as the
representative of the Union Government as well as the party.
Mukherjee, who shared a close relationship with Basu
earlier described the Marxist patriarch as a "charismatic"
political leader and a "towering personality".
Speaking about his "close intimacy" with the veteran
CPI-M leader, who died in Kolkata this morning, Mukherjee
said, "I knew him personally for more than five decades...In
his death I lost a great well-wisher of myself."
Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said Basu`s
death signified the end of an era.
"Jyoti Babu belongs to the era of gentleman politics.
His death signifies the end of an era...As a disciplined party
solider, he paid the price with Prime Minister`s post although
a lot of persons said that it was a historic blunder," Singhvi
He was referring to the refusal of the CPI-M to join the
1996 United Front government even though the Prime Minister`s
chair was offered to Basu.