I’ve no job satisfaction, says Speaker
CPM veteran Somnath Chatterjee does not intend to seek a second term as Speaker on completing four turbulent years in office on June 4.
The years when he had no “job satisfaction'', when he had to de-link himself from his party for propriety and when he was constantly being attacked by a section of the Lok Sabha.
“How can I aspire for a second term when there is no job satisfaction?'' said the first Communist leader to occupy the high constitutional post.
The 14th Lok Sabha he presides over has been marred by frequent UPA-NDA sparring, in which he was sometimes caught. “How can there be job satisfaction when Parliament's functioning is not what it should be in the people's mind,'' said the veteran who has spent 38 years in Parliament.
The Speaker, who sees these four years as among his “most torturous and agonizing,” however considers the “worst day'' of his life when former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee dropped a “bombshell'' by accusing him in writing of being partisan while responding to his written appeal to the Opposition to end its boycott.
“After my parent's death, this was the most harrowing day of my life. I was flabbergasted by the language and sentiment of the letter…I only reacted saying I respect Vajpayeeji very much and will not say a word,'' recalled the man who was persuaded not to resign.
“I also felt why should I quit,'' he said, keeping in mind his leader Jyoti Basu's advise that he must show what a Communist Speaker can be (with his impartiality). “But I felt great satisfaction when Vajpayeeji came to meet me on his own the next day. What he said gave be great relief. I am thankful to him. He showed great statesmanship,'' he said.
Chatterjee was also “hurt” when the EC played a “very very dubious role” after then President A.P.J Abdul Kalam referred the office of profit issue to it acting on advice that was “not correct” and had turned investigator in the issue. “Deliberately the Speaker was targeted on the basis of false information,'' he said.
If frequent disruptions, too much confrontation in public life and lack of national urgency made the Speaker unhappy so did the cash-for-query and MPLADs scandals (with hope lying in Parliament punishing its own members) and the initial misunderstanding over the Jharkhand controversy when his stand against judicial overreach in legislature's domain was misinterpreted by the Opposition as against government formation.
Later some speakers of BJP-ruled states supported his stand by describing him as “Neelkanth” for having swallowed criticism to save the system.
Most satisfying moments? When the Lok Sabha TV channel - the first to be owned exclusively by any Parliament - was set up, the Parliament museum opening, the MPs' lecture series and various parliamentary forums.
Was he attacked because he was a communist? “I don't think so because then they should not have elected me. But maybe there was some lurking suspicion somewhere,'' he said.