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Published On: Mon, Aug 13th, 2018

First communist Speaker Somnath Chatterjee Dies At 89

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SOMNATH-eraKOLKATA/ NEW DELHI :  Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chaterjee died at a Kolkata nursing home on Monday following a cardiac arrest and prolonged age-related ailments. An outstanding parliamentarian, Somnath Chatterjee was the first communist in the country to don the role of a Speaker.
Mr. Chatterjee’s former party, the CPI (M), had expelled him for his refusal to step down as Speaker even after the Left pulled out of the UPA government.Somnath Chatterjee was member of CPM for 40 years, since 1968. He represented the party 10 times in parliament
He lost only one election in his lifetime – to Mamata Banerjee in 1984.
He may have owed his oratorical skills to his training in England where, after a Masters in Law from Cambridge University, he was called to the bar from Middle Temple in London. He lost only one election in his lifetime — to Mamata Banerjee from the Jadavpur constituency in 1984.
In 2008, he did something even his friend Jyoti Basu did not. He defied the party diktat. When the CPM withdrew support to the UPA-1 government, the party ordered Mr Chatterjee to step down from the post of Lok Sabha Speaker so he could vote against the government.
Somnath Chatterjee is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.  He contended that as Speaker, he was above party politics. If he quit because the CPM told him to, the integrity of the Speaker’s independent stature would be compromised.

And so he was expelled by the CPM. Somnath Chatterjee held his silence initially. But finally spoke out to say “that was the saddest day of my life”. His expulsion had caused differences within the party. Many wanted him brought back. As he lay in critical condition in hospital, there were loud if isolated demands within the party that he be given membership of the party once again. The demand was reflected in social media too by supporters of the party.

Chatterjee, who had been associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for most part of his life, leaves behind an imprint as one of the most illustrious speakers of the Lok Sabha. His father N C Chatterjee was once president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.
Chatterjee was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in 2004 during the UPA-I government. He was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009. Leaders across party lines paid tributes to the 10-time Lok Sabha MP

Somnath Chatterjee made Indian democracy richer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday condoling the demise of the former Speaker said ” a stalwart of Indian politics, Chatterjee made Parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. “Anguished by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and supporters,” Modi tweeted.

Political figures across party lines in India tweeted their condolences. Congress president Rahul Gandhi described him as “an institution”: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was “a great loss for us all”:”Saddened at the passing away of Somnath Da. My condolences to his family and admirers. This is a great loss for us all” Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said he was a “champion of enlarging the constituency for social democracy”:
BJP President Amit Shah called him an “excellent parliamentarian,”whose long years as a member of the House, enriched our Parliamentary traditions. My condolences to his family and supporters in this hour of grief.” External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj said she shared a good relationship in spite of their ideological differences. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Mr. Chatterjee “rose above partisan politics”:

President Ram Nath Kovind said Mr. Chatterjee had a “forceful presence in the House.”The Congress party remembered him as a “tough but fair Lok Sabha speaker.He was also universally admired for being a tough but fair Lok Sabha speaker. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.Minister for Defence Nirmala Sitharaman called him “principled and scholarly.”
(With Agency Inputs).


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