Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
বুদ্ধদেব ভট্টাচার্য
Bhattacharjee in 2006
7th Chief Minister of West Bengal
In office
6 November 2000[1] – 13 May 2011[2]
GovernorViren J. Shah
Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Devanand Konwar
M. K. Narayanan
Preceded byJyoti Basu
Succeeded byMamata Banerjee
3rd Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal
In office
12 January 1999 – 5 November 2000[2]
Chief MinisterJyoti Basu
Preceded byBijoy Singh Nahar
Succeeded byVacant
Cabinet Minister, Government of West Bengal
In office
1996 – 5 November 2000
Chief MinisterJyoti Basu
Ministry and DepartmentsHome and Hill Affairs
In office
1987–1996
Chief MinisterJyoti Basu
Ministry and DepartmentsInformation and Culture, Urban Development, Municipal Affairs
In office
1977–1982
Ministry and DepartmentsInformation and Culture
Member of Legislative Assembly, West Bengal
In office
1987–2011
Preceded byAshok Mitra[3]
Succeeded byManish Gupta
ConstituencyJadavpur
In office
1977–1982
Preceded byPrafulla Kanti Ghosh
Succeeded byPrafulla Kanti Ghosh
ConstituencyCossipur
Member of Polit Bureau, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
In office
2002–2015
Personal details
Born (1944-03-01) 1 March 1944 (age 79)
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Political partyCommunist Party of India (Marxist)
RelationsSukanta Bhattacharya (uncle)
Residence(s)Palm Avenue, Kolkata
Alma materPresidency College

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (Bengali: বুদ্ধদেব ভট্টাচার্য, lit.'Buddhodeb Bhôttacharjo') (born 1 March 1944) is an Indian communist politician and a former member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who served as the 7th Chief Minister of West Bengal from 2000 to 2011. In a political career over 5 decades, he became one of the senior leaders of Communist Party of India (Marxist) during his regime.

Bhattacharjee was known for his relatively open policies regarding business, in contrast with the financial policies of CPI(M) being primarily anti-capitalist. But trying to do so, Bhattacharjee in his tenure as CM faced strong land acquisition protests and allegations about violence against the protesters. This led Bhattacharjee to lose the election in 2011 resulting the fall of Left Front's 34 years of rule in West Bengal, the world's longest democratically elected communist government.

Early life

Bhattacharya was born on 1 March 1944 in North Kolkata to a Bengali Brahmin family. His grandfather Krishnachandra Smrititirtha, who hailed from Madaripur District in present-day Bangladesh was a Sanskrit scholar, priest & a prolific writer. He had composed a priestly manual named Purohit Darpan which remains popular with Bengali Hindu priests in West Bengal. Buddhadeb's father Nepalchandra didn't enter into priesthood & was involved with the family publication, Saraswat Library, devoted to selling Hindu religious material.[4] Poet Sukanta Bhattacharya was his father's cousin. A former student of Sailendra Sircar Vidyalaya, Bhattacharya studied Bengali literature at the Presidency College, Kolkata, and secured his B.A. degree in Bengali (Honors), and joined a government school as a teacher.[5][6]

Personal life

He is married to Meera Bhattacharjee; they have a daughter named Suchetana Bhattacharjee.[7] The family has lived in a two-room apartment in Ballygunge, Kolkata. He stayed at the two-room apartment for decades and operated as Chief Minister from the same residence. Bhattacharya is renowned for his frugal lifestyle.[8] Although belonging to a family of priests, Bhattacharya is an avowed atheist, in accordance to the principles of communism.[4]

Early political career

He joined the CPI(M) as a primary member in 1966. Besides taking active part in the food movement, he also supported Vietnam's cause in 1968. In 1968, he was elected state secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation, the youth wing of the CPI(M) that was later merged into the Democratic Youth Federation of India. He served in the position till 1981, when he was succeeded by Boren Basu. He was mentored by Pramod Dasgupta.[5][6]

Political career

Bhattacharjee was elected to the state committee of CPI(M) in 1972 and was inducted in the state secretariat in 1982.[5][6]

At first he was the MLA of Kashipur-Belgachia from 1977 to 1982. Bhattacharjee served as Minister in West Bengal Cabinet as Minister of Information and Public Relations between 1977 and 1982.[6]

He lost the assembly elections in 1982 from Cossipur constituency in 1982 by a slender margin. He was made a permanent invitee to the central committee of CPI(M) in 1984 and was made a member in 1985.[5]

Later he became the MLA of Jadavpur in 1987 and continued to represent the constituency till 2011. He was re-inducted in the cabinet in 1987 minister of Information and Cultural Affairs. He also held departments of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs. [5][6]

He was included in the cabinet in 1991 as Information and Cultural Affairs and Urban Development and Municipal Affairs minister, however, he abruptly resigned from his position in September 1993 following differences with the chief minister on the functioning of the administration and the alleged issue of corruption[9] & had infamously remarked that Jyoti Basu's cabinet was a council of thieves.[10] He returned to the cabinet a few months later.

In 1996, after the 1996 West Bengal election Bhattacharjee was handed over the responsibility of home and police department, owing to the old health of Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. In 1999, he was made the Deputy Chief minister of West Bengal.

On November 6, 2000, he was elevated to the position of Chief Minister after Basu stepped down. In 2002, he was elected to the politburo of CPI(M).[11]

Chief Minister of West Bengal

Bhattacharjee in 2001

Bhattacharjee was elected Chief Minister of West Bengal and was sworn in a solemn ceremony at Raj Bhawan.[12] As Chief Minister, he led the CPI(M)-led Left Front to two successive election victory in 2001 and 2006. In 2001, Left Front secured 199 out of 294 assembly seats and in 2006, it improved the tally to 235 out of 294 seats.[13][14]

He started an industrialization drive in West Bengal to bring in more investment and jobs in the states. Under his government West Bengal saw investments in IT and services sector.[15]

Notable among them the invited projects was the world's cheapest car, Tata Nano,[16] from a small hamlet near Kolkata called Singur. There were other proposals too, such as country's largest integrated steel plant in Salboni, West Midanpore district by Jindal group, and a chemical hub at Nayachar after it faced agrarian resistance in Nandigram.

However, his plans backfired, and his party, along with its front partners, suffered heavy losses in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. In the 2011 state assembly election he was defeated by former Chief Secretary of his own government, and the Trinamool congress candidate Manish Gupta by 16,684 votes.[17]

He is the second West Bengal Chief Minister to lose an election from his own constituency, after Prafulla Chandra Sen in 1967.[18] The Left Front saw a drubbing, securing just 62 seats out of 294. He resigned as Chief Minister on May 13, 2011.

Singur Tata Nano controversy and Nandigram violence

Main articles: Singur Tata Nano controversy and Nandigram violence

Events during his tenure as Chief Minister included attempts to industrialize West Bengal thwarted by the TATA's Tata Motors leaving Bengal in the face of the joint protests of the Trinamool Congress,[19] Socialist Unity Centre of India, and Indian National Congress,[20] the land acquisition dispute in Singur, the Nandigram incident,[21] and the Netai incident.[22]

In January 2006 the Supreme Court of India issued notices to Left Front Government ministers including Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and others in relation to land allotments made in the Salt Lake City township in Kolkata.[23]

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Government came under heavy criticism for police action against demonstrators in Nandigram in East Midnapore. He was criticized not only by opposition parties (such as the Trinamool Congress, INC, PDS, BJP, CPI(ML)L, CRLI and others) and other Left Front coalition allies like CPI, RSP and AIFB, who threatened to back out from the ministry on this issue, but also by his mentor and the state's former chief minister, Jyoti Basu.

On March 15, 2007, Basu criticized Bhattacharjee for failing to restrain the police in Nandigram.[24] Bhattacharjee expressed regret for the shootings, but claimed that he permitted police action because Nandigram was an "area where there had been no rule of law and no presence of an administration for not one, two or 10 days but for two-and-a-half months, and many hundreds of villagers left Nandigram, and took shelter in a state relief camp outside Nandigram."[25] Actually Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declared that land in Nandigram won't be acquired by ordering the Nandigram notification to be torn apart.[26][27] Still police were not allowed to enter Nandigram. Roads were dug up, preventing administration from entering the area.[26]

The CPI(M) declared that they were totally behind Bhattacharjee and had drawn up "plans" to placate his critics in the Left Front.[28] His government was also criticized by Left supporters for failing to protect the Left party workers (including his own party CPI(M)) who came under assault from political opponents - both right wing and ultra-left wing Maoists during the post-Nandigram turmoil until the end of 7th Left Front Government.

Later life

Despite his calls to be relieved of party responsibilities, Bhattacharjee was retained as a member of the Politburo and the Central Committee in the 20th party congress, organised at Kozhikode in 2012.[29]

He was relieved of his posts on the Polit Bureau and Central Committee at the 21st party congress, organised at Vishakhapatnam in 2015.[30] The party congress elected him as a special invitee to the Central Committee. However, he was persuaded to remain a member of the state committee and the state secretariat till 2018. In 2018, due to continuing ill-health he stepped down from the state committee and the state secretariat.[31] He was later named as a special invitee to the state committee. In 2019, he made an attempt to attend a mega-rally at Brigade Parade ground in Kolkata, however, due to breathing difficulties he could not appear on the stage and remained seated in his car.[32]

Padma Bhushan controversy

In January 2022, the Central Government of India bestowed Bhattacharjee with the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India. However, he declined the award and claimed that he had not been informed about the award. He said a call was made to his residence earlier in the day, while adding there is no provision of taking consent for giving Padma awards.[33][34][35][36][37]

Later, the CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury clarified Bhattacharjee's stance in a tweet which said

Former Party Politburo member & West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya [Bhattacharjee] had this to say on the Padma Bhushan award announcement. “I don't know anything about Padman Bhusan award, none has said anything about it. If I have been given Padma Bhushan I refuse to accept it.”

Published works

References

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  3. ^ Jadavpur (Vidhan Sabha constituency) (Wikipedia)
  4. ^ a b "A ritual bond with Buddha". www.telegraphindia.com. 11 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e Choudhary, Ratnadeep (1 March 2019). "Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, the last Left chief minister of West Bengal". ThePrint. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
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  16. ^ "The Sunday Times". Timesonline.co.uk. 13 March 2012. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
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  20. ^ India, One (3 December 2006). "BJP President Rajnath to visit Singur tomorrow". Archived from the original on 19 June 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
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  24. ^ Subir Bhaumik, "India strike over police shooting" Archived 19 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, March 16, 2007.
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  26. ^ a b "National : Deaths in violence unfortunate, says Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee". The Hindu. 16 March 2007. Archived from the original on 25 March 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
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Political offices Preceded byJyoti Basu Chief Minister of West Bengal 2000-2011 Succeeded byMamata Banerjee