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Hasina carries water warmth

Calcutta, Jan. 19: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the only head of state to attend Jyoti Basu’s funeral, today recalled the former chief minister’s role in strengthening the bond between the two countries.

“The people of Bangladesh will remain ever grateful to Jyoti Basu for the co-operation he had extended to the country over the issue of sharing of the water of the Ganges,” Hasina told The Telegraph after offering her tributes to the former chief minister at the Assembly.

With a delegation of senior ministers and Opposition leaders, Hasina reached the venue around 1.14pm after landing at Calcutta airport at 11.15am.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim received her at the VIP entrance of the Assembly House and escorted her to the podium where Basu’s body lay.

An officer in her entourage passed on a wreath and Hasina, in a black and white Dhakai Jamdani sari and a black shawl with her head covered, placed it on Basu’s body.

“His death is an immense loss for the entire subcontinent,” she said.

“He was not just a leader of West Bengal, he represented the subcontinent. He will remain in the hearts of the people as he had devoted his life for the welfare of common people,” Hasina said while leaving the Assembly.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister got a taste of the bond between the two neighbouring countries as thousands of people, waiting patiently in long queues to pay their homage to Basu, began shouting, requesting her to come in front of the podium after placing the wreath.

Daya kore ekbar edike takan, (Please look at this side, once),” was the collective demand and Hasina did come forward and wave at the crowd before heading for the chief minister’s chamber with her delegation.

The Bangladeshi team included Jatiya Party chief and former president H.M. Ershad, Workers’ Party chief Rashed Khan, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Hassanul Haque Inu and several ministers.

“A great leader like Jyoti Basu comes once in ages,” said Ershad, the army general-turned-politician.

“We had different ideologies. But I have a deep respect for him,” he added.

Basu had his ancestral home in Barudi in Bangladesh and he visited it during his trips to Bangladesh in 1987 and 1996. Basu also played a key role in signing the water accord between the two countries in 1996 and people in Bangladesh believe that they got a fair deal because of the Bengal chief minister.

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