Senior West Bengal minister Gautam Deb on Thursday claimed that expelled Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Somnath Chatterjee will address an election rally in his constituency, but the former Lok Sabha speaker said he is yet to take a final decision.
"For the last couple of days, Gautam has been requesting me to address an election rally in his constituency Dum Dum (of North 24-Parganas district). He wants me to go there April 24," Chatterjee told IANS over phone from Santiniketan.
"I have not taken any final decision. This is April 14. April 24 is days away. I have not given him my word yet."
"I will take a decision later. I am not keeping well. Let's see how I shape up in the coming days," said Chatterjee, who was expelled from the CPI-M in mid-2008 for presiding over the Lok Sabha trust vote in defiance of the party's diktat that he quit the speaker's post after it withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Deb, however, said Chatterjee has given his word that he would be present at the rally as the main speaker, "his health permitting".
"It will be the last big meeting of the Left Front in the constituency ahead of the polls," said Deb, state housing minister and the Left Front's star campaigner in the election where the combine is seemingly facing the stiffest challenge of its 34-year rule.
Deb, who has been leading the front's counter-attack on the aggressive Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee through regular appearances in television talk shows and media conferences, is also in great demand among other Left candidates.
Deb's media conferences, where he makes liberal use of audio-visual presentations and regales everybody with his wit and sarcasm, have been grabbing a lot of prime-time coverage on television channels.
However, Deb himself is locked in a close fight against theatre personality Bratya Basu, who is the Trinamool nominee from Dum Dum.
Asked whether Chatterjee can be taken back in the party, Deb said there is no rule that a person once expelled cannot return to the party.
Speaking to IANS a few days back, Chatterjee had professed his love for the CPI-M.
"What do you think, whom should I love? I have retired from active politics. I am no longer a member of any Left party, any party for that matter," said Chatterjee, who divides his time between Kolkata and Santiniketan.
The pain of being shunned by his comrades was all too palpable when he said: ""Nobody calls me up, I don't call up anybody."
Chatterjee did not give a direct reply when asked if he would appeal to the people if the CPI-M requested him to do so.
"It is a hypothetical question," he had said.