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Why Somnath Chatterjee is a hero in Bengal

Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata | July 22, 2008 17:15 IST

Bengalis are irresistibly drawn to rebels -- with or without a cause. Which is why Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has turned a hero among many Bengalis overnight.

An alliance in trouble

These Bengalis are all praise for Somnathda because he exhibited the guts to stand up against his party leadership's diktats and demonstrated resilience to brush aside Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Prakash Karat's pressure to step down from his post.

In fact, the issue of his resignation has turned into a full fledged personality clash between Chatterjee and Karat. The party Politburo is known to have taken umbrage to a letter that the Speaker wrote to Karat, in which he reportedly said he would neither quit nor vote with the Bharatiya Janata Party during the United Progressive Alliance government's trust vote.

If UPA wins, Karat headed for trouble

Sources close to Chatterjee revealed to a section of the media late on Monday night that the Lok Sabha Speaker would put in his papers only on August 12 after he returned from leading an Indian delegation of assembly Speakers to a Commonwealth convention in Kuala Lumpur.

Chatterjee, according to the sources, will preside over the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meet to be held in Kuala Lumpur between August 1 and August 10.

This news jolted West Bengal's CPI-M leaders, who till Monday, were trying to convince Chatterjee to resign.

According to party insiders, West Bengal Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had extended his stay in New Delhi to try and convince Chatterjee.

These developments give rise to several questions: Will Chatterjee quit politics after putting in his papers? Not really, say those in the know.

Non-communal BJP? You must be kidding!'

According to the Speaker's aides, the state CPI-M could split into two camps -- pro- and anti-Karat.

The former, say sources, is likely to consist of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Biman Bose whereas the latter may include anti-Karat voices like Chatterjee and West Bengal Transport, Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Subhas Chakraborty.

Both leaders are known to be close to CPI-M patriarch Jyoti Basu. Party insiders claim Chatterjee's plans have Basu's tacit approval.

'I am not interested in barking or biting!'

PTI adds: Meanwhile, Chatterjee resigned on Tuesday as chairman of the Sriniketan Santiniketan Development Authority. Sources in the SSDA said Chatterjee forwarded his resignation letter to West Bengal Urban Development Minister Asok Bhattacharya. He has held the chairman's post since the SSDA's formation in 1989. The SSDA monitors the overall development and urbanisation of Sriniketan-Santiniketan, excluding the area of Visva Bharati.

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