Communist veteran Jyoti Basu dead (Second Lead)

Kolkata, Jan 17 ( Veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu, who was West Bengal’s chief minister for 23 long years and almost became the prime minister in 1996, died here Sunday after a prolonged illness. He was 95.

“Jyoti Basu is no more,” said party state secretary Biman Bose, one of the senior leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which rules West Bengal at the head of the Left Front.

Basu, who had been ailing for months, died at 11.47 a.m. at the AMRI Hospital, doctors said.

The last of nine politburo members who founded the CPI-M in 1964, Basu was described Saturday as a “great son of India” by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Basu was hospitalised after a pneumonia attack and admitted to the Intensive Cardiac Care Unit (ICCU) of the Salt Lake-based private hospital Jan 1.

Born in 1914 in Kolkata, Basu became chief minister of West Bengal in June 1977 and held the post, uninterrupted, until stepping down voluntarily on health grounds in November 2000.

In the process, Basu created a record for being the longest serving chief minister — a feat that won him many admirers in the country and abroad.

As Basu’s death became known, condolence messages began pouring in.

“We have just learned with great sadness the passing away of Jyoti Basu, fondly known as Jyoti babu,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters outside the AMRI Hospital.

“He was colossus who straddled India’s political scene for many decades. Not only the leader of West Bengal, but of India. He was a great patriot, great democrat, great parliamentarian and great source of inspiration. He served the people of India to the best,” he said.