Kolkata/ New Delhi: Veteran parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee fought his entire life for the CPI(M), a party he was attached with for most of his life. But after prolonged illness, when he breathed his last, the party was in no mood to allow his mortal remains inside its state headquarters at Alimuddin Street in Kolkata.

When asked, CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim, citing the party’s ethics said, “We don’t follow any rituals. So the question of bringing his body to Alimuddin (Bengal headquarters) doesn’t arise.”

Image may contain: 1 person

However, there have been exceptions to this 'rule'.

In 2010, former chief minister of Bengal, Jyoti Basu’s body was taken from the funeral parlour to the same CPI(M) headquarters, where fellow comrades and followers paid homage.

Party leaders even shouted ‘Jyoti Basu Lal Salam’, a way of giving respect among the communists when someone dies. Basu’s body was also taken to the then state secretariat, the Writers' Building. 

Another prominent leader from Bengal and former CPI(M) head of the state Anil Biswas was also given the same respect when he died. Not only was his body taken to Alimuddin Street, but the then CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, politburo members Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose and several other Left Front ministers marched in procession. In fact, CPI(M) cadres flew 62 party flags at half mast.

Image may contain: 7 people, including Sampath Kumar, food
Actually the drift between the party and Chatterjee had its roots in the UPA 1 regime when the Left — then an ally of the ruling UPA — withdrew its support from the government following the civil nuclear deal between India and the US. The government was facing a crucial trust vote and Chatterjee, though a CPI(M) member, was the speaker of the Lok Sabha.

The party wanted him to vote as a member but the rule and dignity of the chair demanded him to be impartial. Chatterjee, who was a senior advocate, knew the rules by heart, and refused to give in to the demands of his party.

The UPA won, but what followed was nothing less than spectacular. Disciplinary actions were taken against Chatterjee for abiding by the parliamentary rules and he was unceremoniously removed from the party.

Today the politburo, the highiest decision-making body of the CPI(M), in a statement, described him as “a veteran parliamentarian who played an important role in defending the foundation of the Indian Constitution, particularly its secular democratic foundations and federalism”.

However, in spite of the tribute, the truth is Somnath Chatterjee remained an outcast for the CPI(M), even in death.