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Calling spade a spade led Somnath Chatterjee into political oblivion

By Vinod

New Delhi, Aug 13: Former Lok Sabha Speaker and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Somnath Chatterjee was the politician known for calling spade a spade. Chatterjee's this temperament has send him into political oblivion during his last days when he was forced to live a solitary life after communists leaders not only expelled him from the party but also made distance from him.

Calling spade a spade led Somnath Chatterjee into political oblivion

One of the most respected communist leaders of the country and having spend 40 years in the Lok Sabha was thrown out of the party in a disgraceful manner for sticking to his stand on the issue of nuclear deal. He was punished for taking impartial stand during the Parliament debate on the nuclear deal which was a historical moment in the Parliamentary democracy of India. The role donned by him was supposed to be taken by him as Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

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Some of the Communist leaders of his time in private conversation accepted that for the worst condition of the CPI (M) in West Bengal, he expulsion could considered to be one of the reasons. The way CPI (M) humiliated the fall out could have been nothing better than this. He was of his own genre to defy the party dictate for wrong cause even one of his close associates and all-powerful chief minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu too had fallen in line when the CPI (M) refused to permit him to become Prime Minister despite his temptation to grab the opportunity.

He was send to Lok Sabha by the people of the state for record 10-time and was a towering leader of party. The only communist leader who had been anointed to the post of Speaker of the Lok Sabha. But he was expelled from the party during a the tussle between CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and the UPA government-led by Manmohan Singh over nuclear deal with the US.

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Karat, the then general secretary of the CPI (M) was not in favour of the nuclear deal with the US and after a long deliberations with the ruling UPA had withdrawn support from the government in July 2008. Though the government survived but Somnath Chatterjee had fallen apart from the CPI (M). Though people say that he wanted to step down just before the two-day special session of the Lok Sabha beginning July 21, 2008 but had ultimately decided to see the trust vote through. He had to bear the brunt of his party leadership for turning down all requests made by his party collegues saying that as Speaker, he was above partisanship and party politics.

A UK-trained barrister was expelled for this seriously compromising the position of the party. The decision taken on him by his leadership was later on termed as "one of the saddest days" of his life. The former speaker received newly instituted Outstanding Parliamentarian award in 1996 and even his critics admitted that he was one of the best Speakers and have always been fair to all.

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After delimitation, Chatterjee's constituency Bolpur became reserved seat for scheduled caste candidates. When Sitaram Yechury became CPM general secretary in 2015, he is said to have tried to bring him back but Somnath Chatterjee refused the offer since he felt that he did not deserve to be expelled in the first place. Moreover, the party was also in doldrums after Mamata Banerjee's sweeping victory four years ago. Born in Assam's Tezpur in 1929 in a family of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, Somnath Chatterjee had joined politics in 1968 and became a member of the Lok Sabha in 1971.

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