ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Littérateur and Economist

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The passing away of Ashok Mitra at the age of 90 rekindles many memories. A first-class littérateur and an economist by profession, his presence caused serious discomfiture to the left government in West Bengal.

Elected as a member of the legislative assembly from the Rashbehari constituency in 1977, Mitra became the state finance minister. He fought as an independent candidate backed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—CPI(M). In 1982, he lost the election and had to wait for a few years, before returning to power from the Jadavpur seat. He was once again alloted the finance portfolio.

Mitra was instrumental in raking up the famous debate on centre–state relations, and organised several conclaves of chief ministers. His efforts played a role in the setting up of the Sarkaria Commission to determine greater administrative and financial autonomy for states within the federal polity of India. 

Soon Mitra’s bonhomie with the CPI(M) ended as Biman Bose, the convenor of the education cell of the Left Front, declared the salary of the principals of the non-government colleges to be at par with the government colleges, without Mitra’s consent. He decided to quit the government without consulting the party, and the Statesman was the only newspaper to initially publish this news. Mitra kept a distance from the party for a number of years, until he was made the chairman of an education commission to examine matters relating to higher education. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha on the CPI(M) ticket.

He often proved to be a man within and outside the party fold. A well-known leftist parliamentarian described Mitra as “an extremist” as he was the economic adviser to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, and then went on to become the finance minister in the left government. Despite his unpredictable and impulsive political stand, Mitra’s contribution as a writer will be forever remembered.

Samit Kar 

Kolkata

Updated On : 11th May, 2018

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