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UPA Govt rallies behind Somnath

india Updated: Jul 24, 2008 16:29 IST

PTI
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The UPA today rallied behind Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, a day after the veteran Marxist was expelled from the CPI-M, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting him, a move aimed at assuring him of the coalition's backing.

Singh, who drove to Chatterjee's residence here this morning, did not speak to the waiting reporters after the meeting that lasted about 10 minutes.

He is understood to have appreciated the manner in which the Speaker conducted the House.

But a senior Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters after meeting Chatterjee that the Speaker has the backing of the entire house.

"Chatterjee's expulsion by his party doesn't change change his position " as Speaker, Paswan said adding "he will continue to receive our support.

The CPI-M on Wednesday expelled Chatterjee for his refusal to quit the post in line with the party directive soon after it withdrew support to the government.

The CPI-M politburo unanimously expelled Chatterjee from the primary membership of the party he has served for over four decades.

The 79-year old barrister and ten-time MP, Chatterjee rejected both subtle and explicit hints from the party leadership, which asked him to quit the post to which he was elected unanimously after the 2004 elections, saying he was above party politics given the post he held.

Chatterjee has had a stream of UPA leaders visiting him after hearing about his expulsion to express their solidarity and support.

RJD leader and Railway Minister Lalu Yadav who met him with one of his daughters, said, "Now the only thing left for CPI-M is to expel Jyoti Babu. They have lost their minds. He taught them ideology. The Left has thrown him out on a whim. Prakash Karat can never attain his stature."

Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party and have also conveyed their support to Chatterjee. Finance Minister P Chidambaram was the first minister to visit him after the expulsion was announced.

Minister for Water Resources Saiffudin Soz, who also met the Speaker, said "Withdrawal of support to us was a mistake made by the Left. Now, expelling him is another big mistake....I had been hearing for the past four months from the Speaker that he wanted to resign."

Home Minister Shivraj Patil paid a short visit. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi praised Chatterjee after paying a "courtesy call" on him.

"What the CPI-M has done is most unfortunate. They have shown disrespect to him. Everybody who believes in democracy would condemn this," he said.

Devendra Prasad Yadav and Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav of the RJD also visited him and told reporters that they would welcome Chatterjee into their party with open arms.

There were many supporters who sent bouquets to him to show support. Priya Dutt, MP and brother of Sanjay Dutt, was one of them.