Somnath says adieu with some sadness, and lots of humour

February 26th, 2009 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Somnath ChatterjeeNew Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) There was humour but also the realisation that it was the beginning of a long walk out of an eventful political life spanning about four decades. As Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee bade adieu to politics on the last day of the 14th Lok Sabha Thursday, the trace of sadness was evident in the banter.
“I thank you all for tolerating me so long,” Chatterjee, 80, said as the house assembled after he welcomed Indonesian Speaker Agung Laksono in the VIP box. Chatterjee, an MP from Bolpur in West Bengal, has announced that he would not contest elections and was bowing out of political life.

“I hope you will keep retired politicians in mind,” the speaker remarked when Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was speaking about his ministry’s initiatives.

Chatterjee, who has been MP since 1971, also told Minister of State for Railways R. Velu while he was announcing railway concessions: “Please do keep retired people in your mind.”

Merry banter followed in Chatterjee’s exchange with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP Yerran Naidu after question hour.

When Naidu thanked the speaker for letting him be the last MP to pose the last supplementary in the 14th Lok Sabha, Chatterjee quipped: “You may have the first supplementary in the next Lok Sabha. Now you are not angry with me.”

It did not stop there. Naidu urged Chatterjee to contest again so that he could have the next opportunity to ask a question again to which the avuncular presiding officer said: “I have to transform myself.”

Throughout his tenure as presiding officer of the Lok Sabha, Chatterjee has had several run-ins with MPs, sometimes cajoling them to be reasonable while at other times playing the strict disciplinarian.

Though he was expelled from his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) after he refused to resign when the party decided to oppose the Congress-led government over the India-US nuclear deal in July last year, there was no bitterness in him.

He has been reportedly unhappy that he was expelled from the party with which he was associated for 40 years from 1968 to 2008.

In a recent interview he said: “I have never questioned the authority of the party to expel me. At the highest level, they have decided that I am not fit to be in that party and I have accepted it. Why should I try to impose myself on them through other processes? That’s that. That’s the greatest scar in my heart, I shall carry it till my last breath.”

He further said: “I have donated my body to a hospital…Therefore, I am not going to the grave but to the hospital with the scar.”

But this hurt was nowhere to be seen when he went about his job in the Lok Sabha with the impartiality that he is known for.

When CPI-M member C.S. Sujatha wished to speak, he said: “I could not get the women reservation’s bill passed, so I will give women more opportunity to speak today.”

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