Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday praised former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for rising “above his party and ideology” to do what he believed was right.
Singh was speaking at a function organised to release Chatterjee’s book, Keeping the Faith. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and current Speaker Meira Kumar were also present.
“His book is an important contribution to our political history as witnessed from one side of the political spectrum,” the Prime Minister said.
Singh did not directly refer to the expulsion of Chatterjee from the CPI(M) in July 2008, following his refusal to quit the post of Speaker after the Left withdrew its support from the UPA government.
The Prime Minister, however, said, “He is deeply committed to preserving the institutions of our republic and has risen above his party and his ideology to do what he believes is right.”
Singh began his address on a personal note saying 60 years ago, “a young boy received a scroll from N C Chatterjee, father of Somnath Chatterjee, declaring him to be a proud graduate of Hindu College, Amritsar.”
Chatterjee, who has launched a strong attack against CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat in his book for “disastrous” policies that led to the Left debacle in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however thanked his parent party for having fielded him for 11 consecutive terms as Lok Sabha candidate. “Later, they found that I have become unsuitable. That was indeed a very sad day of my life,” he said.
Meira Kumar, called Chatterjee “one of the most distinguished Speakers” and thanked him for launching Lok Sabha TV. “He worked without fear or favour and maintained exemplary standards in public life.”