Somnath expulsion evokes mixed responses in West Bengal


Kolkata : The Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) decision Wednesday to expel Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee evoked mixed reponses from West Bengal’s political leaders.

Support TwoCircles

While the Left leaders here justified the move and the Trinamool Congress said it was long overdue and the Congress termed it as the “darkest day in Indian parliamentary democracy”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) described it as the first sign of the “the Red Fort crumbling”.

The Left parties, ruling the state since 1977, were unanimous in their opinion that Chatterjee “deserved the punishment” as he had “breached party discipline”.

In a direct attack on Chatterjee, CPI-M state secretary and ruling Left Front chairman Biman Bose said anyone intending to become a member of his party has to give in writing at the time of joining that he would abide by the party’s constitution and policy.

“If anybody does not do so, then the party has the right to sever all connections with him according to clause 19 (13) of the party constitution.

“He did not relinquish the speaker’s post despite the party’s directive. He had breached party discipline,” Bose said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar told IANS: “In a Communist party, every member has to go by the party decision. Somnathbabu did not do so. So, the party has taken a decision.”

Pointing out that nobody was above the party, Majumdar recalled that the CPI had even expelled its founding member S.A. Dange for violating party discipline in 1981.

Naren Chatterjee, leader of another Left Front constituent Forward Bloc, criticised Chatterjee’s decision to cling to his post despite a directive from the CPI-M.

“He should have remembered that he was first a party member, then an MP and then finally the speaker. It was by virtue of being a CPI-M MP that he got the post,” Naren Chatterjee told IANS.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee felt the CPI-M should have cracked the whip on Chatterjee days earlier.

“Chatterjee should have resigned when the CPI-M withdrew support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He did not do so. The CPI-M should have taken action against him much earlier,” she said.

State Congress vice president Manas Bhuniya, however, said: “It’s the blackest day in India’s parliamentary democracy. It’s a shameful move of the CPI-m as it expelled a person like Somnath Chatterjee from the speaker’s post,” Bhuniya told IANS.

He said Chatterjee maintained utmost sanctity of the high office and always placed it above his political affiliation.

“The CPI-M might expel him for breaching their party guidelines, but people of the country will remember him as a great speaker of the world’s largest democracy. He’ll be embraced by people cutting across all sections of society,” he said.

“The move at this critical juncture, once again, proved the CPI-M is a party of autocrats and it doesn’t believe in parliamentary democracy at all,” Bhuniya said.

BJP state general secretary Rahul Sinha could barely conceal his glee at the turn of events. “I am enjoying every bit of the drama. We are very happy with the move as we can see the eroding base of the communists in the country. It proves the CPI-M muscle power is gradually coming to an end,” he said.

Sanjay Budhia, president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, remembered Chatterjee’s contribution to the state’s industrialisation efforts as West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) chairman.

“This is a political move, and I don’t want to comment on this. But I have highest regards for him. He had done a great job for the state when he was the WBIDC chairman,” said Budhia.

The CPI-M Wednesday expelled Chatterjee after he refused to follow the party’s advice to resign from the post.

Chatterjee had been under pressure to quit the constitutional post after the four left parties withdrew support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government following their differences over the India-US nuclear deal.

However, the 79-year-old veteran parliamentarian refused to toe the party line and steered the house during the crucial session Monday and Tuesday in which the government proved its majority.