Somnath says he is speaker, CPI-M awaits ‘appropriate decision’ (Lead)

July 16th, 2008 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) With just six days to go for the trust vote in parliament, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee Wednesday said he was still the speaker while his parent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said he would take “an appropriate decision at the appropriate time”. “I am still the speaker,” Chatterjee told reporters here.

The issue of what Chatterjee would do has gained prominence as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trust vote in parliament draws closer. The Left’s withdrawal of support has reduced the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to a minority and each vote will be crucial for its survival.

The CPI-M leadership reportedly faces a dilemma with Chatterjee - who became the speaker as part of the Left’s understanding with the UPA when it extended its outside support in 2004 - refusing to resign after the Communists pulled out last week.

Chatterjee’s comments came just after CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat reiterated that the decision to give up the speaker’s post had been left to Chatterjee.

“The speaker will decide himself what he wants to do,” Karat told reporters in Chennai airport where he arrived Wednesday for a party meeting.

CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury added here: “The party has taken a decision that it was up to the speaker. The speaker will take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time.”

Yechury also issued a statement clarifying that the party was following “normal parliamentary practice” by putting Chatterjee’s name in the list of MPs submitted to President Pratibha Patil after it withdrew support.

Pointing out that there had been a “disinformation” campaign over the inclusion of Chatterjee’s name in the list, Yechury said: “What I had said is that the speaker’s name should be included in the CPI-M list as he was elected as a CPI-M candidate but with an asterisk denoting that currently he is the Lok Sabha speaker, as is the normal parliamentary practice.”

The ruling Congress condemned the controversy over the speaker’s resignation.

“The Congress condemns the unfortunate attempt to politicise the high constitutional office of the Lok Sabha speaker, which has resulted in a public controversy. The speaker is appointed by the entire Lok Sabha, not by one party,” Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said.

“The speaker rises above party affiliation and serves as the speaker of the Lok Sabha in a non-partisan manner. The controversy will create a dangerous precedence,” Natarajan warned.

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