The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu in politburo quit move
Basu: Burden of age

Calcutta, April 1: Jyoti Basu has offered to quit the position he has held in the CPM politburo for over 40 years.

Hamstrung by age, an incurable stomach ailment and a growing inability to travel, he has written to CPM bosses seeking permission to resign the post he has held since the party was formed in 1964. He is pushing 91.

'I wrote to my party leadership long back and I have informed them of late of my intention to resign my position in the politburo as well as the central committee on health grounds. But they would not listen,' Basu told The Telegraph this evening.

CPM national leaders H.S. Surjeet, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury and state bosses Anil Biswas and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee are believed to have tried to persuade Basu to change his mind. But he refused to be swayed by their entreaties, forcing them to put the issue up for discussion.

Party officials said Basu's decision would come up for discussion at the CPM congress starting April 6 as it is tied up with several developments expected in the politburo this month.

For one, Karat is likely to be installed party general secretary in place of Surjeet who, like Basu, is troubled by old age and related ailments. Two, a woman ' Karat's wife Brinda ' is likely to make her debut in the all-male politburo for the first time.

However, a clear picture on how things will actually pan out will emerge only next week. Basu and Surjeet are crucial players as they had a huge hand in forging the alliance with the Congress ahead of last May's general elections and putting in place the Manmohan Singh regime.

The veterans are also considered extremely skilled at managing coalition contradictions. More often than not, the CPM leadership looks to them to negotiate thorny issues with the Congress and other alliance partners.

Basu said he would press the leadership to accept his decision because his health was a cause for concern. The same problem had made him decide to give up chief ministership four years ago, he said.

'I was unable to carry on as chief minister because of my health four years ago, so I quit. Now how do I justify my taking so much of load at age 91 and in a worse state of health' Basu asked.

But he made it clear he would continue to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the state committee or the state secretariat if wanted by the party.

Bengal's CPM leaders are believed to be keen on clinging to Basu in view of next year's Assembly elections.

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