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CPI-M expels Somnath Chatterjee

Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata | July 23, 2008 15:42 IST
Last Updated: July 23, 2008 21:36 IST

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The Communist Party of India-Marxist on Wednesday expelled Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee [Images] from the party on the ground of "seriously compromising" its position.

"The politburo of the CPI-M has unanimouisly decided to expel Somnath Chatterjee from the membership of the party with immediate effect," a party statement said after a meeting of its politburo.

"This action has been taken under Article 19 (13) of the party constitution for seriously compromising the party position," it said.

Among those who attended the Politburo meeting were general secretary Prakash Karat [Images], Sitaram Yechury, M K Pandhe, S R Pillai and Brinda Karat.

After being with the CPI-M for 40 years, it was not a birthday gift Chatterjee would have exactly wished to get from the cadre-based party.

Chatterjee's 79th birthday falls this Friday, but a painful irony stares at his face after he was expelled by the CPI-M on Wednesday, punished for his defiance.

Born on July 25, 1929, in Tezpur in Assam, the 10-time MP has always been somewhat of an outsider in the party.

Meawhile, Chatterjee on Wednesday declined to comment on the CPI-M's decision to expel him from the party.

Sources close to him said that if he had any comments, the media would be informed accordingly.

West Bengal Sport and Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty [Images] told the media late on Wednesday evening that he was shocked by the CPI-M's decision to expel Chatterjee and that the incident will not augur well for the party.  

Chatterjee had voiced his displeasure over the CPI-M voting against the United Progressive Alliance alongside the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"Somnath Chatterjee has violated party discipline," party politburo member Biman Bose told reporters.

He said none in CPI-M was above the party. "We (Communists) have to abide by party rules. The party will severe all connections with those who do not follow party dictates. We cannot keep him as speaker."

Asked what action Chatterjee might face for violating party discipline, Bose said, ''Clause number 19 in the party constitution has clearly spelt the provisions in this regard.''

Asked if the expulsion of Chatterjee would affect the party, he said, "I would not like to discuss this."

"Somnath Chatterjee might have acted according to the Indian Constitution, but our party has its own constitution and decisions are taken as per party rules," Bose told reporters on the sidelines of a rally in Kolkata.

He said that the party had infomation that Chatterjee would step down a day after the trust vote in the Lok Sabha, "but he has not done so."

Why Somnath Chatterjee is a hero

The CPI-M leadership had been in two minds on the speaker issue. But efforts were on since the Left parties withdrew support to the United Progressive Alliance government on July 9, to force Chatterjee to step down.

Chatterjee's refusal to do so had been a cause of major embarrassment for the Left. Repeated persuasion having failed, the CPI-M central committee sent an emissary to intercede with him during his visit to Kolkata last weekend.

The party Politburo is known to have taken umbrage to a letter the Speaker wrote to CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat in which he reportedly said he would neither quit nor vote with the Bharatiya Janata Party during the UPA's trust vote.

Chatterjee had earlier said he would resign as a member of the Parliament and that he has no intention of contesting elections. His constituency -- Bolpur in Birbhum district -- is now a reserved seat.

He also indicated that would preside over the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meet to be held in Kuala Lumpur between August 1 and August 10 and put in his papers after the event.

A Central Committee statement, after its meeting last weekend, did not refer to the Speaker, but publicly censured West Bengal Sport and Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty for criticising the party line. The minister had spoken his mind on voting along with the BJP and had blamed Karat for creating such a situation.

Additional Reportage: PTI

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