He fine tuned democracy and helped safeguard secularism, federalism: Sitaram Yechury on Somnath Chatterjee

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said late Somnath Chatterjee’s wisdom was necessary to restore democratic order in Parliament, and outside Parliament, being a distinguished lawyer, he fought cases related to the rights of the underprivileged and marginalised sections of society.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2018 23:17 IST
Somnath Chatterjee had a significant role in initiating discussions over the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), says CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.(PTI/File Photo)

Somnath Chatterjee, Somnath da for all of us, remained a strong defender of the foundations of the Indian Constitution throughout his life. Having been elected to Lok Sabha for 10 terms, he steadfastly helped to uphold the causes of secularism, parliamentary democracy, social justice and federalism.

As the speaker of the Lok Sabha, he enriched the proceedings of the House and parliamentary democracy. Many of his pronouncements are now part of the rule book and often cited in Parliament.

His untimely death has left a big void at a time when parliamentary procedures are facing a grave danger. I am sure that as Speaker, Somnath da would have never approved the tendency to cite flimsy grounds to treat important legislation as a money bill to avoid vetting by the Rajya Sabha.

As a Speaker, he would have never allowed the smuggling of extraneous provisions into finance Bill to serve purposes other than the Budget.

His counsel and wisdom was most necessary to restore the democratic order in Parliament. Outside Parliament, being a distinguished lawyer, he always took up matters and fought cases related to the rights of the underprivileged and the marginalised sections of society.

In his long life, he played a stellar role in fine-tuning democracy and always rose—be it in Parliament or court rooms—to defend the democratic rights of the people. He played this role with aplomb especially during the Emergency. Today, when the situation is such that even without an Emergency being declared, there are rampant attacks on our democratic rights and muzzling of the press, Somnath da’s voice was most required. It is a sad moment that he left us on Monday and his voice will never be heard again.

As I speak about Somnath da, memories of him are flooding my mind. He played important roles in the formation of two governments in 1996 and 2004. He also had a significant role in initiating the discussions over the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at a time when all public opinions said that there is no alternative to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. During that time, it was Somnath Chatterjee who provided us confidence and support.

I always cherished the lavish manner in which he treated all his guests and friends. He had dietary restrictions and perhaps couldn’t fully enjoy the food he served others. His dinners and lunches were the only source of authentic Bengali cuisine for us. But his house in Ashoka Road was also the regular meeting point for different political leaders and many important decisions were taken there.

(Writer is general secretary of CPI(M),
As told to Saubhadra Chatterji)

First Published: Aug 13, 2018 23:17 IST