Refusing Rajya Sabha membership no message to CPI-M: Somnath


Kolkata: Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee says his decision to refuse Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer to be a nominated Rajya Sabha MP was not intended to be a message to his former party Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) which expelled him last year for refusing to quit the speaker’s post.

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“It is not a message to anybody. I can’t and don’t want to give messages like this,” Chatterjee told IANS over phone from Bolpur, 210 km from here.

The 80-year-old Chatterjee said he had “politely refused” the offer as he felt he could not make much contribution as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.

“I am an old man. I did not think I would be able to make any useful contribution as a nominated member of the upper house. So I said I should be excused,” he said.

Chatterjee, who was associated with the CPI-M for decades, was expelled from his party for refusing to quit the speaker’s post after the Communists withdrew support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government last year protesting the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Chatterjee stayed put, saying the speaker’s post was above party affiliations and that he had been a unanimous choice for the chair in 2004.

Chatterjee’s refusal of the prime minister’s offer was seen in some circles as his way of proving wrong a section of his former CPI-M colleagues who said that he stuck to the speaker’s post, defying the party diktat to step down, as he “hankered for top posts”.

“I have only expressed my view. Earlier also, I was asked to become a governor or an ambassador. But I did not accept them. I have said that I have retired from politics,” said Chatterjee, a seven-time Lok Sabha MP from Bolpur.

Earlier this week, Chatterjee wrote to union Home Minister P. Chidambaram declining the prime minister’s proposal.

Chatterjee said he had finished writing his 350-page memoir which was now with the publisher. “I can’t say when it will come out. It is up to them”.

Chatterjee, a barrister from Middle Temple in London, shifted to the Bolpur constituency in 1985 after losing the Lok Sabha polls from Jadavpur to Mamata Banerjee.

In love with his constituency and its people, Chatterjee had declared early this year that he would spend the remaining days of his life in the Birbhum district town of Bolpur close to the sylvan surroundings of Rabindranath Tagore-founded Santiniketan.

To fulfil his wish, Chatterjee has bought a house in Bolpur where he spends time relaxing, chatting with Santiniketan residents and participating in social activities.

A football academy, a polytechnic and a women’s school are among his contributions there. “I have no intention to return to Kolkata immediately.

“I want to lead a serene life away from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata,” added Chatterjee, who returned to Santiniketan Friday after spending time with his grandchildren in New Delhi.