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Speaker defies CPI-M, chairs all-party meet

July 21, 2008 11:18 IST
Last Updated: July 21, 2008 14:16 IST

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Brushing aside demands of the Communist Party of India - Marxist to quit, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Monday presided over the special session of Lok Sabha to debate the confidence motion.

Before he came in to take the chair, Chatterjee presided over a meeting of the floor leaders to discuss the modalities of the two-day debate. Nobody raised the issue of his resignation there.

The CPI-M, after a meeting of the Central Committee, is understood to have asked him late on Sunday night to step down before the beginning of the session.

The party has been asking him to quit the post ever since the Left parties withdrew support to the government on the India-United States nuclear agreement. The Speaker has been maintaining that he is above party politics.

"I don't have to impress upon the importance of the motion that is going to be debated. The whole nation is watching. In the time available, fullest opportunity will be given to members," he said before the start of the debate, appealing to members to maintain the dignity of Parliament.

"There may be some toka-toki (interruptions), but order should be maintained. The Chair has no subject of his own except that the House is run," he said.

The Speaker said a total of 12 hours has been allotted for the discussion on the motion and the House may have to sit till 10 pm today. Tentatively, the reply of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] will be around 5-6 pm on Tuesday, after which there will be voting.

Chatterjee's wife Renu and daughter were present in the Speaker's Gallery to witness the proceedings.

In an attempt to inject humour after he took the Speaker's Chair, Chatterjee, 79, said, "It is nice to see a full House".

"It is an important session," said the Speaker while asking some agitated members to keep quiet.

Before going to the Lok Sabha, the Speaker presided over the meeting of the floor leaders of parties to discuss issues related to the trust vote being sought by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

When asked whether he still remained the Speaker, Chatterjee evaded a reply as he entered Parliament House.

However, sources close to the Speaker said that he was not aware of any communication asking him to quit except CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat's statement that he should take his own decision.

Chatterjee, who has repeatedly stated that the Speaker's office should not be dragged into the political controversy, has not obliged the party leadership, which has been pressing him to quit the constitutional office.

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