Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha speaker, dies at 89; condolences pour in

By Team MynationFirst Published 13, Aug 2018, 11:43 AM IST
Highlights

Veteran communist Somnath Chatterjee, who fell out of favour with the CPI(M) leadership towards the end of his tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker because of his refusal to step down after the Left Front had withdrawn support to the first UPA government, belonged to an era of politicians with impeccable personal integrity albeit with dogmatic ideologies

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee passed away at a private hospital on Monday morning following multiple organ failure. Chatterjee passed away at around 8.15 am after his condition deteriorated following yesterday's "mild heart attack".  

Chatterjee died at the city's Belle Vue Clinic. He was suffering from a kidney-related ailment and was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition on Tuesday last.

"He suffered a multiple organ failure and had stopped responding to treatment since late last night. He passed away on Monday morning at around 8.15 am," a hospital official said. 

Chatterjee had suffered a mild heart attack on Sunday morning but was revived. He was undergoing treatment in the ICCU.

Last month, the former speaker had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. He was under treatment for the past 40 days and was discharged from the hospital just for three days after his health showed signs of improvement.

An outstanding parliamentarian, Somnath Chatterjee was the first communist in the country to don the role of a Speaker.

Chatterjee, who had been associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for the most part of his life, leaves behind an imprint as one of the most illustrious speakers of the Lok Sabha.

Chatterjee was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in 2004 during the UPA-I government.

Somnath Chatterjee made Indian democracy richer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today condoling the demise of the former Lok Sabha Speaker.
Describing him as a stalwart of Indian politics, the prime minister said, Chatterjee made Parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable.

"Anguished by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and supporters," Modi tweeted.

Former MP and Speaker Shri Somnath Chatterjee was a stalwart of Indian politics. He made our Parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Anguished by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and supporters.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi)

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today condoled the death of former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and said he was respected by parliamentarians across party lines. 

"I mourn the passing away of Shri Somnath Chatterjee, 10 term MP and former speaker of the Lok Sabha," Gandhi tweeted.

I mourn the passing away of Shri Somnath Chatterjee, 10 term MP and former Speaker of the Lok Sabha. He was an institution. Greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians, across party lines. My condolences to his family at this time of grief.

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi)

A close associate of Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, Chatterjee was expelled by the CPI(M) in 2008 for "seriously compromising the position of the party" when he refused to step down as the Speaker, a position which he believed was independent and unbiased.

After his party, then under the general secretaryship of Prakash Karat, withdrew support from the UPA government in July 2008, Chatterjee refused to step down from his position holding that the Speaker's post is above any party politics.

Describing July 23, 2008, as "one of the saddest days of my life," Chatterjee had said in a statement that, "The speaker of Lok Sabha, like the speakers of other elected assemblies, while acting as such does not and cannot represent any political party." 

It was on his initiative that proceedings of the Zero Hour were telecast live from July 5, 2004.

A full-fledged 24hour Lok Sabha television channel also came into being in July 2006 during his tenure as speaker.

Chatterjee was elected to the Lok Sabha 10 times on party ticket beginning in 1971 when he was elected as a CPI(M)-backed independent candidate to a seat in an interim election necessitated due to the death of his father.

Chatterjee was defeated only once in 1984 by Mamata Banerjee, who incidentally came to limelight with this win. He was the leader of the CPI(M) in Lok Sabha from 1989 to 2004.

Chatterjee was born at Tezpur in Assam on July 25, 1929, to N C Chatterjee, who was once president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, and Binapani Debi and was educated in Kolkata and the United Kingdom.

A Barrister-at-Law from Middle Temple in UK, Chatterjee was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for four decades from 1968 to 2008, till he was expelled in 2008.

Conferred the "Outstanding Parliamentarian Award" in 1996, Chatterjee was known for his debating skills with extensive knowledge of national and international issues, delivered in his deep baritone voice, interspersed with wit and humour. He adorned several parliamentary committees as chairman or as a member and was respected by leaders across the political arena.

Chatterjee retired from active politics following the end of his tenure in 2009. He is survived by wife Renu, a son and two daughters.

With inputs from PTI
 

Last Updated 9, Sep 2018, 8:54 AM IST