Marxist veteran Jyoti Basu said on Friday that he wanted to step down from his party's politburo and would not be attending the CPI-M’s 19th party congress in Coimbatore next month.
Though Basu did not spell out the reasons for his decisions to reporters after the CPM state secretariat meeting at Alimuddin Street, it was obvious that his poor health had prompted him to seek retirement from active politics. His ill health has kept him largely confined to the fortified walls of his residence at Salt Lake for several weeks this year.
The country's longest serving chief minister said, possibly for the fifth time in the past three years that he wants to quit his party’s key decision-making body, the politburo. “I have verbally informed Prakash (Karat) that I don't want to be in the politburo. I have talked to him," Basu said. He also said, “I cannot attend the party congress.”
On the eve of the CPM’s previous party congress in Delhi in 2005, Basu had for the first time expressed his wish to stay away from the day-to-day affairs of the party, wanting general secretary Prakash Karat to accept his resignation from the politburo.
Basu's health had already started deteriorating and doctors attending on him had then advised him to avoid air and rail travel.
But after a brainstorming, the CPM central leadership decided Basu would stay. Its argument was that Basu and Harkishen Singh Surjeet were the only two surviving members of the nine, referred to as the ‘Navratnas’, of the first politburo of 1964.