Jyoti Basu was born into an upper middle-class Bengali family in Kolkata. His father Nishikanta Basu was a doctor. His hometown was the village of Barodi in Dhaka District, East Bengal (now in Bangladesh). Educated at St. Xavier's Collegiate School, the young Jyoti Basu enrolled in Presidency College with English Honours in 1935. Later he travelled to the United Kingdom to study law. It was in UK that he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. He was introduced to the party by Bhupesh Gupta. After qualifying for the Bar, he became a whole-timer in the Communist Party of India and finally returned to India in 1940. In 1944 Basu started to take interest in trade union activities. CPI appointed him to work with the railway laborers. When B.N. Railway Workers Union and B.D. Rail Road Workers Union combined, Basu was appointed as the general secretary of the union.
Jyoti Basu was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946 after contesting in the Railway constituency. When the Communist Party of India divided in 1964, Jyoti Basu became one of the first nine members of the Polit Bureau. This bureau belonged to the newly formed Communist Party of India (Marxist). In 1967 and 1969, Jyoti Basu became Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal in the United Front governments.
Jyoti Basu served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the Left Front government between June 21, 1977 and November 6, 2000. He was truly a mass leader. In 1996 Jyoti Basu was sure to be the consensus leader of the United Front for the position of Prime Minister of India. However, the CPI(M) politburo took a decision not to participate in the government. H.D. Deve Gowda from the Janata Dal instead became Prime Minister.
Jyoti Basu resigned from the position of the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2000 due to health reasons and was succeeded by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Till date, Jyoti Basu holds the record for the longest-serving Chief Minister in Indian political history. The 18th congress of CPI(M), held in Delhi in 2005 again elected Basu to its Polit Bureau, although he was allowed to retire from it. General Secretary Prakash Karat said that the party expected him to continue until its 2008 congress, at which point they would reconsider his retirement. At the 19th congress in early April 2008, Jyoti Basu was not integrated into the Polit Bureau, although he remained a member of the Central Committee and was elected as Special Invitee to the Politburo.
On 1st January 2010, an ailing Jyoti Basu was admitted to the AMRI hospital in Salt Lake, Kolkata. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and finally on 17th January 2010, he died of multiple organ failure. Jyoti Basu had donated his eyes and his body for medical research to the SSKM hospital in Kolkata.
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