An adamant Chatterjee questions leadership decision

July 15th, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Despite the pressure mounted on him by the CPI-M leadership to resign his post immediately, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee remains defiant as he questioned their very decision to go along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). An angry Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat, according to party sources, has asked politburo member Sitaram Yechury to convince Chatterjee about quitting the speaker’s post, which was the result of an understanding that the Left had with the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) when it decided to prop it up in 2004.

Chatterjee, who has made it clear that he was in no mood to give up his post, has apparently received “moral support” from ruling Congress leaders to continue as the presiding officer of the lower house.

The speaker, a veteran Communist who was elected on the CPI-M ticket from Bolpur in West Bengal, has reportedly written a letter to Karat asking him to explain what would be the Left’s “advantage” if it voted along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the UPA during the July 22 trust vote.

Karat then faxed the letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who along with the CPI-M leader Biman Bose met veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu to discuss the issue.

Officially, the CPI-M denies that Chatterjee has written any such letter to Karat.

Basu, who met Chatterjee Sunday, is believed to have asked him not to do anything against “party discipline.” He also reminded Chatterjee that he had to deny an offer to be the prime minister in 1996 in order to oblige CPI-M politburo’s decision.

However, Chatterjee, who has had meetings with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora during the last two days, is insisting he would give up his Lok Sabha membership also if he had to quit the speaker’s post. The speaker is believed to have told the CPI-M leadership that he would not be in a position to vote against the UPA in the Lok Sabha.

Chatterjee, who will be 79 on July 25, is also arguing that such a move would cast a shadow on the speaker’s office as it is supposed to be above party politics.

Incidentally, another senior CPI-M leader and West Bengal Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty had also written to Karat saying that it would not be correct to vote against the Congress-led government along with the BJP during the July 22 trust vote.

Chakraborty, who is also a CPI-M state secretariat member, said the Communists would have to answer embarrassing questions from the people for a long time if the party’s MPs voted against the Congress.

The government is facing a crucial trust vote on July 22 after the CPI-M-led Left parties withdrew their legislative support protesting the UPA’s move to go ahead with the India-US civil nuclear deal.

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