No party can treat speaker as its member: Chatterjee

August 1st, 2008 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Somnath Chatterjee

New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) Terming the day he was expelled from the CPI-M as “one of the saddest days” in his life, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee Friday said that no party can treat the speaker as its member, and suggested that on being elected to the post an MP should temporarily resign from his party. Chatterjee, Lok Sabha from Bolpur in West Bengal, took a strong exception to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) including his name among party MPs withdrawing support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government when it handed over the list to President Pratibha Patil.

The speaker said he had decided to uphold the Constitution of India at the “risk of being unjustifiably dubbed as anti-party”.

He was expelled from the CPI-M July 23 for “seriously compromising the position of the party” by not stepping down as speaker in defiance of the party diktat.

Chatterjee said he was “surprised” to learn that his name was included in the communication to the president after the CPI-M-led Left parties withdrew their four-year-long legislative support to the government July 9.

“In the computation of the strength of either the ruling party or its allies or of the opposition, no responsible person or authority can treat the speaker as belonging to or extending support either to the government or its allies or to the opposition,” he said in a six-page statement issued Friday.

“Thus, the question of the speaker withdrawing support to the government can never arise. It is only the House as a whole that can decide whether the speaker should continue to remain as such or not, apart from his/her own decision to relinquish, if there is any such occasion,” Chatterjee said.

Stressing that his election as the Lok Sabha speaker was “unanimous” as both the ruling and the opposition parties filed nominations for him, Chatterjee alleged that he was not shown any copy of the communication sent by the CPI-M to the president.

Pointing out that while CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat clarified more than once that the decision to quit the speaker’s post was left to Chatterjee himself, he said that he was July 20 asked by a CPI-M politburo member to resign from the post and vote against the government during the trust motion.

“.. When I refused, subsequently it was suggested that I should resign as speaker and may not attend the House to cast my vote. I informed him of my inability to accept such decision or to act upon the same, as it will seriously compromise the constitutional position of the speaker,” Chatterjee explained in the statement.

“The party should have appreciated that as speaker I did not represent it nor could it at all give any direction to me with regard to the discharge of my functions as speaker. I reiterate this with all the emphasis at my command,” he said.

He added: “I could not and cannot in my conscience accept a position which would totally compromise the sanctity of the most important legislative office in the country. After weighing the pros and cons, I have consciously taken the principled decision to uphold the constitution of India at the risk of being unjustifiably dubbed as anti-party.”

“It is a canard to allege that I have done so to help any party or parties or on some other personal considerations. I strongly and categorically deny these wholly baseless allegations,” he said.

Chatterjee reiterated that he would not contest any further elections.

He also suggested that a member should be allowed to temporarily resign from the membership of the party and not face a situation that compromises the position of the speaker vis-a-vis the party.

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