There was no official word from Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s secretariat on his future plans amid reports that he has expressed a desire to continue in the post till the July 22 trust vote in order to avoid voting with the BJP.
Highly placed sources did not rule out on Tuesday night the possibility of Chatterjee presiding over the House when it takes up PM Manmohan Singh’s confidence motion. Cited in support of this scenario was CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s statement leaving the decision to the Speaker whose office the party did not want to “drag into any unnecessary controversy’’.
On a newspaper report suggesting that the Speaker has written to Karat saying he wanted to continue as in his post till the trust vote, CPI(M) sources refrained from confirming or contradicting it.
“There has been no letter from him in the past two days. However, there has been communication from both sides earlier. We continue to say that the party has nothing to do with his resigning. It is his decision,’’ a party leader said.
Sources close to the Speaker also refused to react to the reports. “We have no idea,’’ they said. But according to one version, Chatterjee’s letter was reportedly written on plain paper and submitted to the party leadership on June 29, the day of the Politburo meeting.
The Speaker’s point of view might be articulated by some leaders when the party’s central committee meets on July 19-20, just ahead of the trust motion.
According to the Constitution, when the Speaker chooses to quit, he addresses his resignation letter to the Deputy Speaker. Sources said that the Speaker, if and when he decides to step down, could make an announcement in the House itself in deference to MPs who had unanimously elected him to the high office.
In Kolkata, when TV news channels started quoting from Chatterjee’s purported letter to Karat, the Bengal CPI(M) got into damage control mode.
It was apparent that two of patriarch Jyoti Basu’s strong followers, Chatterjee and state Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty had put the party in a spot. Chakraborty had said that the party should not be voting with the BJP against the government’s confidence motion.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, both Politburo members, rushed to Basu’s Salt Lake residence with the aim of requesting him to persuade Chatterjee not to take any step until the party’s central committee meets on July 19 and 20.
(With inputs from Tanmay Chatterjee in Kolkata)