Shiba Pada Bhattacharjee,the only person to have defeated former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu in the Assembly polls in 1972 from Baranagar seat,now says that he should never have contested an election against the ultimate leader. Jyoti Basu was our ultimate leader. I would have felt better now if I had not contested an election against him, Bhattacharjee told The Indian Express.
Jyoti Basu was the real leader of the working class. He was the one who combined parliamentary democracy with Communism, he says,adding that the Left started losing peoples faith only after Basu officially bowed out of the centrestage of state politics.
In his career spanning five decades,in which he fought 11 Assembly elections,Basu lost only once in Baranagar (now in North 24 Parganas) after winning from the same constituency in six elections in a row,starting from 1952. While Basu had bagged 30,158 votes,Bhattacharjee,who was the CPI candidate,got 69,145 votes. Interestingly,as a young activist for the undivided Communist Party of India,Bhattacharjee used to be a campaigner for Basu,who contested the polls from the same constituency in 1957 and 1962. Basu,however,considered the 1972 Assembly polls rigged and never acknowledged that he really lost.
When The Indian Express met him on Monday,Bhattacharjee recollected that the first meeting with Basu was during the door-to-door meetings he was organising for the former CM during the elections. He used to stay in Ballygunge and came to Baranagar in a car during the elections. I was endowed with the responsibility of organising the campaign in East Baranagar where Basu had a huge following, says Bhattacharjee,now 74 and a resident of Netaji Colony in Baranagar.
During the 1957 elections,he was contesting against Kanailal Dhole,a Congress candidate. He was a little doubtful about his prospects and expressed his apprehension to me. I told him that he would definitely win by a margin of 10,000 votes and thats what happened, he said.
In 1977,the CPM was forced to reshuffle constituencies and let Basu contest from Satgachia after their candidate lost by a huge margin to CPI candidate Indrajit Gupta in the 1976 elections. Basu contested state elections from the Satgachia constituency from 1977 to 1996. In the 1977 Assembly elections,Basu defeated Jumman Ali Mollah of Congress. Basu got 45.538 votes while Mollah got 7,092.
After the elections in 1972,we never spoke. He greeted me with his trademark smile,but it never went beyond that, recalled Bhattacharjee.