Kolkata, Dec 13 (IANS) Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi Sunday bade adieu as West Bengal governor by hosting the state's creme de al cr�me to tea after occupying the Raj Bhavan for five momentous years.
The 64-year-old former IAS officer and diplomat, who took over as governor Dec 14, 2004, found his tenure coinciding with the most volatile period the state has seen in three decades - peasant unrest fuelled by the opposition parties in Singur and Nandigram as well as largescale political clashes.
He responded to each of the events in a polite but firm manner, while never compromising on his dignity.
Gandhi's hard-hitting statements after the police lathi-charge on protestors in Nandigram, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) bid to regain the turf through violence, as also escalating political violence after the April-May Lok Sabha election prompted angry reactions from the Communist-led Left Front government.
The Marxists questioned his impartiality and accused him of playing politics.
In the middle of last year, Gandhi took an unprecedented decision to switch off power supply to the Raj Bhavan by two hours daily to share the plight of the people reeling under power cuts. This prompted the Marxists to call him "publicity hungry".
However, it was his efforts to broker a solution to the vexed Singur issue that earned him many admirers.
He persuaded the warring Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to talk. But in the end the talks failed and Tata Motors shifted the Nano car project to Gujarat.
Setting aside their differences, political leaders, cultural personalities, sports stars and other eminent persons assembled at the Raj Bhavan Sunday for the farewell tea party thrown by the governor.
Bhattacharjee, Banerjee, union and state ministers and other political top guns, film director Aparna Sen, danseuse Amala Shankar, painters Jogen Chowdhury and Olympian footballer P.K. Banerjee were among the 600 guests present at the Raj Bhavan.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi called on nonagenarian communist leader Jyoti Basu at the latter's residence.
"I have been quite happy with you," said Basu, who was chief minister for over 23 years from 1977 to 2000.
"I am leaving tomorrow. I am returning to Chennai. But I could not go without coming and saying goodbye to you," Gandhi told the ailing Basu.
Speaking to mediapersons after the five-minute meeting, Gandhi said: "It is a privilege for me to know Jyoti Basu. It has been a great pleasure to have the benefit of his presence and guidance on many matters over these years, and particularly the last five years. I have come to take his leave before I return."
Gopal Krishna Gandhi - a People's Governor
Kolkata, Dec 13 (IANS) On the last day of his five-year term as West Bengal governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi Sunday called on Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu, who said "I have been quite happy with you".
The nonagenarian Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader's expression of satisfaction with the stint of Mahatma Gandhi's grandson at Raj Bhavan here is significant since his party frequently criticised the governor for his forthright comments on the state's burning issues.
As sober former IAS officer and diplomat demits office, the public impression of a governor being either a rubber stamp and without a mind of his own or a bully sent by the central government with a political agenda lies challenged.
While political parties are divided in their opinion on whether Gandhi can be called the best governor the country has ever seen or one who did not do justice to the hallowed office, for the man on the street he was a 'people's governor' who would be remembered for providing humane and sensitive touches to the administration.
Giving lift in his convoy to a father-daughter duo lumbering down a flyover with heavy baggage, or ticking off a policeman for misbehaving with a poor man and then proceeding to provide succour to the victim by hosting him at Raj Bahvan -- these are a couple of snapshots of the kind and humble approach that was the hallmark of Gandhi's public dealings.
The 64-year-old, who took over as state governor Dec 14, 2004, found his tenure coinciding with the most tumultuous period the state has seen in three decades - peasant unrest fuelled by the opposition parties in Singur and Nandigram and largescale political clashes. However, he responded to each of the events in a polite but firm manner, while never compromising on his dignity.
On March 14, 2007, after the death of 14 people in East Midnapore district's Nandigram when police opened fire on those protesting a proposed chemical hub, Gandhi came up with a statement that "the news of deaths by police firing has filled me with a sense of cold horror".
That was the beginning of the state's first citizen's frequent run-ins with the ruling Left Front. The CPI-M accused him of being partial and turning a blind eye to the lawlessness prevailing in the region and the atrocities let loose by the agitators.
In mid-2008, Gandhi ordered that Raj Bhavan lights be switched off for two hours daily as he wished to share the plight of the ordinary citizens reeling under frequent power cuts.
The announcement prompted another wave of attack by the CPI-M, which alleged that he was playing politics and seeking publicity. The party still holds that view.
"No doubt he is scholarly and erudite. But as governor, he got involved too much in politics. He also sought publicity by switching off Raj Bhavan lights daily for two hours," CPI-M Central Committee member Shyamal Chakraborty told IANS.
However, for many, Gandhi would be best remembered for his sincere efforts at brokering a solution to the vexed issue of Singur by persuading bitter foes Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to sit face-to-face at the discussion table.
Prompted by Gandhi, the duo held two rounds of talks, but ultimately the negotiations failed in the quagmire of Bengal politics and the state lost the Tata Motors' small car Nano project to Gujarat.
Industrialist Pawan Ruia paid rich compliments to Gandhi. "He will be remembered forever for his sincere efforts towards rapid industrialisation of the state," said the Ruia Group chief.
Opposition Trinamool Congress also showered praise on Gandhi. "People of West Bengal are not only sad but disheartened too because he has won the hearts of lakhs of people of the state," union Minister of State for Shipping and Trinamool Congress top gun Mukul Roy told IANS.
Congress legislative party leader Manas Bhuniya called Gandhi a true democrat. "He was a true custodian of the constitution. He always stood by truth and justice".