Page last updated at 08:00 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Indian communist leader Basu dies

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu
Jyoti Basu ruled West Bengal for 23 years

Veteran Indian communist leader Jyoti Basu has died at the age of 95.

He led the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and was chief minister of West Bengal state from 1977 to 2000.

Jyoty Basu was credited with restoring stability to the state, and bringing in land reforms. He died in Calcutta after a long illness.

In 1996 he was offered to lead the federal government as PM in a left-of-centre coalition, but his party chose to support it from the outside.

Mr Basu described his party's decision decision not to join the coalition as a "historic blunder."

He made Communism look respectable
Sabyasachi Basu Roy Choudhuri

The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says he was easily India's most respected communist leader.

Our correspondent says Jyoti Basu leaves behind a controversial and mixed legacy. Though he undertook crucial land reforms in West Bengal state and empowered the peasantry, the state slid into industrial stagnation and was wracked by radical trade unionism under his rule.

Businesses fled West Bengal, unemployment rose, and industrial unrest was rife, our correspondent says.

Jyoty Basu was often described as a Fabian socialist rather than an orthodox communist.

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