Somnath-da can now work for good of the country, says friend

July 24th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Somnath Chatterjee

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Now that he is freed of his “shackles”, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee can work for the “good of the country”, says his former comrade Saifuddin Choudhury who quit the CPI-M in 2000 following bitter differences with the high command over the party’s lack of democracy and its anti-Congressism. “It is good that the CPI-M has expelled him. Now he can work freely for the good of the country,” Choudhury told IANS. “The expulsion of Somnath Chatterjee is an act of vendetta by the vanquished,” he said.

“I quit the party saying I wanted an honourable dissociation,” said Choudhury.

Dropped from the central committee in 1995 for going against the party line, Choudhury, a former four-time MP from West Bengal’s Katwa constituency, was denied a Lok Sabha ticket in the 1996 general elections.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo Wednesday expelled Chatterjee, Lok Sabha member of Bolpur in West Bengal, from the party’s primary membership for defying its diktat to resign from the speaker’s post ahead of the trust vote in parliament.

On the eve of the two-day special parliament session, Choudhury called up Chatterjee and congratulated him on his decision to preside over the trust debate.

Chatterjee then was under mounting pressure from the CPI-M high command, particularly its general secretary Prakash Karat, to give up the post.

“I congratulated him and told him he should vote in favour of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in case there is a tie and the speaker has to cast a vote,” Choudhury told IANS.

“Somnath-da told me we would next meet in Kolkata, indicating that he could give up his post after the trust vote was over,” said Choudhury.

Chatterjee, still the Lok Sabha Speaker, has always bonded well with Saifuddin Choudhury, sharing his views on the world’s former Communist regimes and inner party democracy within the CPI-M.

In Delhi, Choudhury was Thursday waiting to talk to Chatterjee at leisure.

He recalled the days when he and Chatterjee had clashed with the party leadership over their support to glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), a movement launched by Mikhail Gorbachev, former head of what was then the Soviet Union and the last general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.

The CPI-M leadership had debunked the movement as a ‘plot’ hatched by the West to destabilize the Communist country.

“Both of us had welcomed Gorbachev’s moves to democratize the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union. It did not go down well with the party leadership,” said Choudhury.

There was more trouble in the offing for the duo when they wanted the CPI-M, in the post-Babri Masjid demolition phase in 1993, not to destabilize the Narasimha Rao government, because it would have meant aiding and abetting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the opposition.

“Somnath-da and I spoke to our party comrades as well as the late Indrajit Gupta (CPI leader), V.P. Singh (former prime minister of the National Front) and told them that a no-confidence vote against the Narasimha Rao government would only help the BJP,” Choudhury said.

“But the CPI-M had its way and voted against the ruling Congress,” said Choudhury.

Narasimha Rao then prime minister, however, managed to win the confidence vote by bribing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MPs.

Chatterjee’s friends say he is keen on presiding over the Hiren Mukherjee Lecture he had had instituted on Feb 25. The first in the series of this lecture, named after Hiren Mukherjee, an outstanding parliamentarian of the Communist Party of India (CPI), will be delivered by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen Aug 11.

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