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Somnath may resign if Left pulls out

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to demit office following the Left parties’ withdrawal of support to the UPA government, reports Vinod Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Vinod Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 05, 2008 01:14 AM IST

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to demit office following the Left parties’ withdrawal of support to the UPA government.

He is expected to act on his own without a formal directive from the CPM, whose primary membership he continues to hold. The Marxist party will refrain from guiding his actions in deference to his political stature, seniority and the high constitutional office he occupies. “The matter hasn’t come up for discussion. But the Speaker will take his own decision at an appropriate time,” a top CPM leader told HT.

The inevitability of Chatterjee’s exit could foist two back-to-back trials of strength on the UPA: a trust vote and the election of the new Speaker. It remains to be seen whether the Congress would leave the key slot for one of its allies, including the Samajwadi Party, or field its own candidate. The presiding officer’s role is always significant in a House where the government is surviving on a thin majority.

Having first entered the Lok Sabha in 1971, Chatterjee is among the country’s longest-serving parliamentarians. He took oath as Speaker on June 4, 2004 on being elected as the UPA-Left’s joint candidate. The CPM Politburo approved his candidature in response to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s request for him as presiding officer of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Against this background, the UPA-Left split will make the Bolpur MP’s continuation as Speaker morally and politically untenable. Even otherwise, Chatterjee, widely recognised for his oratorical skills, missed participating in House debates as an ordinary member. He made no secret of the fact that he was “happier facing the Chair than occupying it”.

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