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Somnath CPI(M)'s most articulate and liberal face

india Updated: Jul 23, 2008 20:17 IST

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The expulsion of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from CPI(M) for defying the party diktat to step down ends on a bitter note the political journey of a man who was the marxist outfit's most articulate face with liberal views in Parliament for nearly four decades.

The disciplinary action against someone, who was elected to the Lok Sabha ten times on the party ticket beginning in 1971 and led the CPI(M) parliamentary party for decades, must have come as an unnerving experience for a cadre-based party.

While Chatterjee's expulsion was in the offing after he refused to toe the party line of stepping down as Speaker ahead of the trust vote, it was not the first time that the man, whose deep baritone voice, agrumentative skill of a lawyer that he is and clarity on issues left a mark in Lok Sabha, had differed with the party's official line.

Chatterjee, 79, was one of those in the party who had supported CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu's candidature for Prime Ministership in 1996, a move that was shot dead by majority hardliners in the party culminating in the "historic blunder".

Born in Tezpur in Assam on July 25, 1929 in a conservative family, Chatterjee's father was a Hindu Mahasabha leader.

Educated in Kolkata and England, Chatterjee obtained his post-graduate degree from the Cambridge and Bar-at-Law from Middle Temple, the UK, to become a lawyer.

It was in 1968 that he joined politics and CPI(M) and three years later he was elected to the Lok Sabha from his home constituency of Bolpur.

Gifted with debating skills and oratory power, Chatterjee excelled as a parliamentarian that saw him being propelled to the post of leader of CPI(M) parliamentary delegation for the first time in 1989.