CPI(M) expels Somnath; he digs his heels in

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New Delhi, Jul 23 (UNI) A day after the UPA government won the confidence motion following the Left parties withdrawal of support from the combine, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) today expelled Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from its primary membership for refusing to quit his post, but there are indications that he may dig his heels in and not quit the post immediately.

The party's Polit Bureau, which met today, in its unanimous decision said: "The party has decided to expel Somnath Chatterjee from the membership of the party with immediate effect." The Polit Bureau took the action against the veteran parliamentarian under Article XIX, Clause 13 of the Party Constitution for seriously compromising position of the party.

As per the Constitution and the rules of the Party, explusion from the party is the severest of all disciplinary measures and this shall be applied with utmost caution, deliberation and judgement.

The party's tiff with Mr Chatterjee had snowballed into a major controversy after the CPM withdrew support to the 50-month-old UPA Government and subsequently submitted the list of party MPs, including the name of Mr Chatterjee, to the President.

However, sources close to Mr Chatterjee said he did not vacate the chair when he was asked to do so by the CPI(M) as he was fully convinced that his was an apolitical position and he ceased to be a party man in 2004 when he was elected unanimously by the Lok Sabha.

"There seems to be no change in his stand even after the party took a hard decision," the sources said.

They added that Mr Chatterjee was likely to communicate whatever decision he takes to the President before the beginning of the Monsoon Session of Parliament on August 11.

Meantime, Mr Chatterjee found support in the Congress when the grand old party described the expulsion as "unprecedented" and said the development would not have any bearing on his continuance as the Presiding Officer of the Lower House.

''Once elected as Speaker, the member concerned of the Lok Sabha does not have any party affiliation. In the case of Mr Chatterjee also, he is without party affiliation as long as he occupies the Chair,'' AICC Spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told mediapersons, while indicating that the Congress is in favour of his continuance on the present post.

On the other hand, the BJP took a very technical and legalistic stand on the expulsion of the Speaker when it said that every MP was bound by the party whip and the member is bound to lose his membership in the event of violating the party line.

Asked to comment on the CPI-M expelling Mr Chatterjee for 'seriously compromising the position of the party', BJP Parliamentary Party Deputy Leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra said he was not aware if there was any whip from the party to Mr Chatterjee.

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