Somnath-Karat controversy drags on

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New Delhi, Jul 16: Controversy over Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's refusal to quit following the withdrawal of support to the UPA government by Left parties does not seem to die with the CPI(M) reiterating that the decision would be taken by the Speaker himself.

Mystery shrouds the contents of a letter reportedly sent by Mr Chatterjee to CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat in which he is believed to have conveyed his unwillingness to vote against the UPA government along with the BJP and desire to occupy the office till the July 22 showdown in Parliament. He is also upset with Mr Karat for joining hands with the BSP to take on the Congress-led government on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Interestingly, the Congress often characterised the BSP as a ''casteist party''.

The controversy, likely to be discussed prominently in the CPI(M) Central Committee meeting here on July 19-20, would focus more on the circumstances which led the party to withdraw its support to the Manmohan Singh Government and its strategy to ensure that the trust vote is defeated.

Mr Karat told UNI over phone from Chennai this morning that the party had left it to Mr Chatterjee to decide for himself on the issue.

''Humne to iss par pehle hi statement de diya hai, ab unko tai karna hai. (We have already issued a statement in this regard. Now it has to be decided by him only),'' Mr Karat said.

The CPI(M) chief, however, remained silent on whether he had received the letter. Similarly, when contacted by UNI no party leader had confirmed about it.

On Monday Mr Karat said, ''We don't want the office of the Speaker dragged into any unnecessary controversy.''

In a statement, issued on the same day, the party Central Committee also clarified, ''any decision will be taken by the Speaker himself.'' The party noted that on July 10 the Speaker's office had made the same point. Party senior leader and Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, meanwhile, alleged that a disinformation campaign is doing the rounds on the issue of inclusion of Mr Chatterjee's name in the CPI(M) MPs list submitted to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

''What I had said is that the Speaker's name should be included in the CPI(M) list as he was elected as a CPI(M) candidate but with an asterisk denoting that currently he is the Lok Sabha Speaker, as is the normal Parliamentary practice,'' Mr Yechury said.

Mr Yechury, party's Parliamentary group leader, is also reported to have been told by Mr Chatterjee that he would choose the timing of when to quit.''Commrade Karat left it for me to decide so I will take the call,'' the Speaker told Mr Yechury as reported by a English daily here today.

The Congress and the Samajwadi Party have emphasised that Mr Chatterjee should continue as the Speaker as he is the representative not only of his party but the whole House. Samajwadi Party General Sectretary Ram Gopal Yadav called on the Speaker at his residence and said he should continue as the Speaker.

The Congress also made the same point of the Speaker being above politics. Party senior leader Murli Deora also reportedly met him yesterday.

The other Left parties while wanting put an end to the controversy at the earliest, describe the controversy as ''insignificant''.


UNI

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