Somnath Chatterjee: The statesman who remained independent in twilight years
Kolkata, Aug 13: Somnath Chatterjee, one of the tallest communist leaders of India, is no more. He was 10 term MP and former Speaker of the 13th Lok Sabha. Called as an institution for his long political career, Chatterjee was greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians, across party lines.
As a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Chatterjee was in active politics for nearly 40 years. In 1971, he was nominated to contest an interim election caused by the death of his father, who had been elected from that constituency. He became a Member of the Lok Sabha in 1971 and was elected the first time as an independent candidate supported by the CPI(M).
Subsequently, he was re-elected nine times, except once when he lost to Mamata Banerjee in the Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency in 1984.
Following the 2004 election, he was appointed as the pro tem speaker and subsequently on 4 June 2004 he was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha. He was the second pro tem Speaker after Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar to achieve this feat.
Chatterjee was expelled from the party for ignoring the party's instructions to withdraw support for the United Progressive Alliance-led government in mid-2008. He stayed on in his post as Speaker of the House, acting in this capacity during the confidence vote.
According to Chatterjee, the expulsion was "one of the saddest days" of his life. After the expulsion, he remained independent in the last decade of his life.
Chatterjee is survived by his wife Renu Chatterjee, one son, Pratap and two daughters, Anuradha and Anushila.
Chatterjee was born on 25 July 1929 in Tezpur, Assam. His father, Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, was a prominent lawyer, intellectual, and Hindu revivalist and nationalist around the time of India's independence, and his mother, Binapani Debi.
Save Democracy Forum
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee speaks from inside the car during a protest rally under the banner ‘Save Democracy Forum' against suppression of human rights and deterioration of law & order in West Bengal, in Birbhum district in 2014. PTI Photo
Somnath Chatterjee with Amartya Sen
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee at an open public discussion on "Innovation in Teaching Learning and School Functioning" in Birbhum district of West Bengal in 2012. PTI file photo
Somnath Chatterjee at Santiniketan
Then President Pranab Mukherjee posing for photographs with Vice-Chancelloor of Visva-Bharati University Susanta Dutta Gupta (2nd left), former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee (3rd left) and elder brother of president Pijush Mukhopadhaya (R). PTI file photo
Celebrating 85th birthday
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee cuts cake to celebrate his 85th birthday as his wife Renu Chatterjee (R) and daughter Anushila Basu (back) look on, at his residence in Kolkata in 2014. PTI file Photo
With Sitaram Yechury
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee with CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury at his residence during his visit to Santiniketan in Birbhum district of West Bengal in 2015. PTI file photo