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Use power to bring welfare, not to dominate people: Somnath

Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA: Power has to be used to help bring about people's welfare and not as a means to dominate them, and one cannot afford to ignore the feelings and perceptions of the common man. Those oft-repeated words of veteran leader Jyoti Basu were recalled by Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker, at a function here on Thursday to pay tributes to the departed leader on his 96 {+t} {+h} birth anniversary.

Delivering the first Jyoti Basu Memorial Lecture, Mr. Chatterjee said that as Basu always emphasised, “only in the hands of a united and eternally vigilant citizenry and a leadership committed to the cause of the people will democracy be safe”.

The lecture was organised by the West Bengal Forum for Parliamentary Studies and was held on a lawn in the State Legislative Assembly where Basu sat for decades, either on the treasury benches or opposite.

Former Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, one of Basu's dear friends, sent in a letter saying that although his kidney ailments bound him down, he hoped that Basu's spirit lives on in the House.

Invoking the leader time and again in his speech, Mr. Chatterjee said Basu always believed that “it is man and man alone who creates history,” and “despite many crests and thrusts, the people will finally emerge victorious and gain freedom in a classless society, free from exploitation of any form.”

Mr. Chatterjee said Basu had a tremendous capacity to assess the significance of developing situations, political or otherwise, and could quickly react to them most aptly. “He set an outstanding example of how to run a coalition government in harmony, and with understanding among the partners,” Mr. Chatterjee added.

The implementation of land reforms and devolution of power of governance to the grassroots level were among Basu's greatest achievements, but with his pragmatism he also ushered in the 1994 Industrial Policy of the State government, Mr. Chatterjee said.

Striking a poignant note during his brief speech, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said it was a painful moment for him to talk about a man whose association had been an asset in his life.

“Basu was imprisoned without trial, but he never meted out that treatment to anyone. Rather, he pioneered the setting up of a State-level Human Rights Commission. He held aloft secular ideals, and the image and stature that has got inextricably linked with him is one that does the State proud,” said Mr. Bhattacharjee.

Describing Basu as one of the legendary products of India's communist movement, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha K. Rahman Khan said the late leader had wanted more power to the States so as to strengthen the country's federal structure.

“He represents an era which will continue to guide us,” Mr. Khan said.

The function — which saw the participation of Speaker H.A. Halim and leader of the Congress Legislative Party Manas Ranjan Bhunia — was also marked by the unveiling of a portrait of Basu painted by Wasim Kapur.

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