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Bose, the boss of the streets

Biman Bose discovered nightlife on the streets after 32 years on Wednesday. “It’s difficult to stay awake,” the
74-year-old CPM state secretary conceded even as cadres protesting “anarchy” in the state dozed off around him.
It’s 2.15am on Thursday. Biman Bose (extreme left) and other Left veterans watch a folk artiste perform at the protest venue on Rani Rashmoni Avenue

Act I, Scene II

Rani Rashmoni Avenue, Calcutta.

Bose and a battery of Left leaders, including Surjya Kanta Mishra, Rabin Deb, Sridip Bhattacharyya and Kshiti Goswami, sit on chairs under a shamiana.

Several party supporters take a quick nap backstage but Bose sits straight in the front row.

He tells comrades that they are free to catch a wink but adds that senior leaders, including him, will stay awake. “You can sleep if you want. There is no obligation on anyone. But we will stay awake and keep the movement alive,” the veteran says at midnight.

Earlier, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had dropped by for 45 minutes. Clad in white kurta-pajama, the former CM who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had arrived at 7.20pm.

“Unlike Bose, Bhattacharjee was never involved in the rough and tumble of politics,” a CPM leader says.

As the night wears on, Bose does a round of the shamiana and finding many taking a nap in the back rows, he returns to the dais and tells the organisers to start a song and dance programme.

Soon, a tribal song and dance begins, followed by recitation of poems.

Bose leaves at 7.30am, but returns in the afternoon to stay for some time.

Act I, Scene I

During his brief visit to the venue, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (right) shares a light moment with Surjya Kanta Mishra

Curzon Park, Calcutta

Bose, then 32, takes part in a sit-in to protest deteriorating law and order and “rigging” in the 1972 Assembly polls. Siddhartha Shankar Ray was at the helm of the government then.

Not that Bose has not stayed up at night since then. In 1994, he had stayed awake for three nights to watch jatras at a fair in West Midnapore.

“I generally sleep by midnight. Since I am in the habit of waking up around 6.30am, it gets a bit difficult for me to stay awake for long at this age,” Bose says at 1.45am on Thursday.

What keeps him going

Bose’s party colleagues say it’s his frugal eating and simple lifestyle. He avoids lunch but eats fruits and lots of black tea throughout the day. “But he prefers a good dinner at the Alimuddin Street canteen every night,” a leader says.

Bose, the CPM state secretary, continues to tour the districts in his jeep and attend party programmes.

What kept him going

Born in a well-to-do family in 1940, Bose grew up in his Ballygunge Phanri residence. His elder brother was a businessman who lived on Moira Street.

“But Bimanda quit home the moment he became a party member, severed all ties with his family and started staying at a Krishak Sabha office in Beniapukur. Now he lives at Alimuddin,” the CPM leader said.

As a school student, Bose had participated in the Assembly poll campaign in the mid-50s.

He enrolled as a party worker at 18.

Bose took part in the undivided CPI’s agitation against the Bengal-Bihar merger and the food movement of 1959.

His role in organising students and cadres during the second food movement in 1966 was appreciated by Promode Dasgupta and Jyoti Basu.

Bose cut his teeth in student politics as the general secretary of the Maulana Azad College union in the ’60s.

His popularity graph soared after he led the gherao of the principal of the erstwhile Presidency College in the mid-60s to protest the issuance of transfer certificates to students taking part in Left demonstrations.

The CPM brass made him the SFI secretary in the early 70s.

“He rose from the ranks, organised and built the party in the tribal belts of Bankura, Purulia and parts of West Midnapore. Street protests are not new to him, but it is true that he has hit the streets after a long gap,” a senior CPM leader says.

Didi’s day out

Mamata Banerjee, the vanquisher of Bose and his comrades, had sat on a 26-day fast in 2006 barely 100 metres from the CPM’s protest venue.

Her anti-land acquisition movement drove the Tata Nano project out of Bengal and she rode the wave of change to come to power.

“Returning to power is a tall order for us now. The three-day dharna is only an attempt to keep the flock together in the face of the BJP’s attempts to woo away our cadres and supporters,” a CPM state secretariat member admitted on Thursday.

Report by Anindya Sengupta and Tamaghna Banerjee; pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Anup Bhattacharya