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CPI-M still trying to make Speaker quit

Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata | July 21, 2008 18:33 IST

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Fissures in West Bengal's red bastion have started widening over Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's refusal to resign from his post.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist central committee asked Chatterjee to resign on Sunday night, a request he ignored when he chaired the special session of the Lok Sabha on Monday.

A red-faced CPI-M has not given up hope of convincing Chatterjee to quit. According to party insiders, West Bengal Left Front Chairman Biman Bose has extended his stay in New Delhi for this purpose.

Though CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat sang a mellowed tune a few days after having reacted sharply against Chatterjee's decision to stay on in his post, CPI-M leaders in Bengal, Chatterjee's home state, are divided over the issue.

State Sports, Transport and Youth Affairs Minister Subhas Chakraborty, who is close to CPI-M patriarch Jyoti Basu, ruffled many feathers when he spoke his mind to the media recently.

'The post of Speaker has its sanctity and is above party politics. Chatterjee was elected unanimously by the members of all political parties,' Chakraborty had said, adding, 'the Speaker's case should not be viewed as a CPI-M party affair.'

He blamed Karat for creating a situation where the Left would have to vote with the 'communal' Bharatiya Janata Party against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

On July 15, the CPI-M sent Chakraborty a showcause notice for questioning the party line in public; the minister was asked to explain his remarks on the party's stance over the trust vote.

Though Chakraborty refused to withdraw his comments, he was 'coaxed' into a sending a written apology to the state CPI-M leadership.

On Sunday, Chakraborty was again reprimanded by the CPI-M leadership for voicing his opinions in public.

Though Chakraborty told the media on Sunday that he would henceforth abide by the 'party diktat', he is believed to have told sources close to him that "this was but an attempt by the party central committee to stifle a voice of dissent."

Basu too is said to be unhappy over "the way Subhas has been publicly reprimanded."

The veteran CPI-M leader and former West Bengal chief minister is also unhappy about the manner in which Karat and his supporters have pressured the Lok Sabha Speaker to put in his papers.

Basu feels "it is unwise to withdraw support from the government over the nuclear deal," a source told on Monday.

Chatterjee met Basu recently to discuss the resignation issue. Apart from Basu, the Speaker found another supporter in a predecessor Purno A Sangma.

'I wholeheartedly support Chatterjee's stand,' Sangma told a local television channel. 'A Speaker cannot and should not be dictated by any party. It's a Constitutional post and one should respect it.'

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and his supporters have chosen to stand by Karat.

Sources close to the chief minister told on Monday that "Bhattacharya completely agrees with the party high command's wish and he feels that Chatterjee should have complied with the party request."

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