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I'll not run away from responsibility: Speaker

Chatterjee, who completes two years in office on Sunday, laments attempts at the denigration of high institutions.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 13:20 IST

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, whose stewardship of the Lok Sabha has been full of controversies, has no intention to "run away" from the responsibility despite threats from the main Opposition BJP that it would move a no-confidence motion against him in the coming Monsoon Session.

Chatterjee, who completes two years in office on Sunday, laments attempts at the denigration of high institutions, including the Speaker's Office, but has "mixed feelings" about his tenure so far and regrets that he has not been able to earn the goodwill of all members of the House.

"At one time, I had thought of quitting. But now I have decided not to run away from my responsibility and I shall continue my humble endeavour," he said.

Hurt by epithets like 'Hitler' and 'dictator' used by Opposition members on the last day of the Budget Session, Chatterjee, however, sent conciliatory signals to his detractors saying he had never suggested that he was infallible.

"I have never said or dreamt of being a person who cannot commit mistakes. I will try to rectify if it is due to my own undoings. But that doesn't mean that the institution should be destroyed," he said.

The Speaker continues to be miffed over the way the Election Commission brought his office "under great cloud" on the office of profit issue.

Chatterjee feels that media was not playing its role in a parliamentary democracy and says that its criticism needed to be constructive so as to ensure that it "does not destroy the basic fundamental structure of democracy".

Chatterjee also recalls that when he was elected as the Presiding Officer he had observed that he has "natural leanings towards the left". The Opposition sits on the left side of the Speaker.

"Records show that I have given more opportunities to the Opposition...May it be adjournment motions, may it be calling attention or any such parliamentary instrument", he said.

The Speaker's appeal to all political parties was that if they have grievances, these should be ventilated in Parliament in a "different manner" than that done on the streets.

He also condemned the recent clash in Tamil Nadu assembly between MLAs of rival sides.
Besides, Chatterjee feels that right-thinking sections of the people and the civil society should come forward to see to it that institutions of democracy are not denigrated.

Narrating the 'shock' he got while interacting with a group of girl students doing their 12th standard, he said the leader of the group, when asked by him what she wanted to become, responded "anything other than a politician".

"You may laugh at the comment, but it reflects the intensity of the feelings against politicians. Politics is treated as an occupation of crooks", the Speaker said, adding that it was also a worrisome sign that people are "not surprised" by the disturbances in Parliament.

Referring to the "cynicism" among the people regarding politicians, he said that is why there was "not much of resistance by the people because they may feel that politicians deserve it". 

Chatterjee said that he gave permission to Opposition even to raise adjournment motions despite reservations from the Treasury Benches as the "job of the Speaker was not to save the government. It is for them to maintain their numbers in the House".

He says the grievances against him included that he gives "too much opportunity" to Opposition leaders.

Chatterjee, who had only recently accused the Election Commission of subjecting him to "trial by insinuation", says that he was going through an agonising situation and feels that some more concern should have been shown by the poll panel in the office of profit case.

"I feel I have been unjustly treated by the constitutional authority. It was probaly done in a mechanical and casual manner", he says but insists that he was not imputing any motive to the EC which was doing a "great job" everywhere in conducting election, including in Bihar and West Bengal.

"Now, no one can point a finger that the elections have not been conducted properly," he says.

The Speaker feels that he has come under unnecessary attack in the matter involving admonition of former Secretary General Subhash C Kashyap saying that he had "nothing to do" with what the Privileges Committee decided on the issue.

"What do I gain if someone is admonished or not? My position does not change due to the admonition. I know him (Kashyap) very well. It was neither organised or arranged by me. I challenge anyone if he says so."