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'Party won't take action against Somnath'

A Ganesh Nadar in New Delhi | July 23, 2008 13:29 IST
Last Updated: July 23, 2008 14:27 IST

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A V Bellarmin, the Member of Parliament from Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, has been a Communist Party of India-Marxist activist for 42 years. Joining him for breakfast the day after the trust vote which the government won, one finds him relaxed. If he was upset with the loss in the Lok Sabha, which he attributed to the "Bharatiya Janata Party not managing its votes properly", it did not show on his face.

He shares his accommodation in the capital with the MP from Madurai, Mohan Ponnuswamy. This is another feature of the Communists, that though MPs are entitled to a house the Communists share the official accommodation.

On one wall of the flat is a photograph of Singaravelar, considered the father of the labour movement in India. On another is a Delhi Tamil Sangam calendar. The television was tuned into the Kalaignar channel, owned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's family, which telecast songs from black and white Tamil films. The ceiling fan was on and the air-conditioner was off.

Video: Nagercoil's Marxist MP travels for trust vote

Over excellent tea and biscuits, Bellarmin turned to the hot question of the day: Will his party take action against Somnath Chatterjee for violating party discipline by not stepping down as the Lok Sabha Speaker before the trust vote?

"Chatterjee is a very senior member of the party. He always says people should be in positions that suit them. He is suited to be the Speaker and really enjoys himself. And if he feels that the Speaker is above party politics. I do not think the party will take any action against him. They will let him be and also allow him to do what he feels right and whenever he likes."

"In any discussion there are always differences of opinion. That is why we are a democracy. In our party everyone expresses his opinion. We thrash it out among ourselves. The end decision is collective. So painting a Karat versus Somnath picture is something a section of the media has cooked up," Bellarmin said, and added, "There are differences which we will iron out within the party. There will be no outside discussion or comments. It's an internal matter of the party and it will remain so."

And what is the sentiment about CPI-M General Secretary Karat within the party? Is there any anger against him for having taken things to the brink, for withdrawing support to the United Progressive Alliance government?

"If you feel that a group of our party members wanted to see Jyoti Basu as prime minister in 1996 and they are now going to go against Karat because we lost the trust vote, you are wrong. Again, if you feel that there is a split in the party because we said the Speaker should quit, you are wrong."

Why Somnath Chatterjee is a hero

Quizzed about Basu and the decision to not allow him to become prime minister 12 years ago, a decision Basu later described as a 'historical blunder', the MP said, "See, our party believes that whatever position you are in, you should have the power to implement our ideology and plans for the country. We would have been a minority government being supported by parties who do not agree with our ideology or plans. What was the point in being prime minister when you cannot use that position to do what you wish! That is why the party turned the idea down."

There seems to be a view that Karat has emerged as the sole voice of the Marxists, so is the CPI-M too going down the path of personality politics

"Just because you see Prakash Karat talking to the media and announcing something does not mean he took the decision all by himself," Bellarmin said. "Our party does not work like that. The Central Committee discusses something, someone announces it. When the Politburo discusses something Prakash announces it. He is told to talk to the press. It is not his own idea."

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