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Somnath to chair Lok Sabha

PTI | ByChandan Nandy, New Delhi
May 22, 2004 02:36 AM IST

The mulling over the issue is over. The CPI(M) leadership has accepted the Cong offer of the Speakership of the 14th Lok Sabha.

The mulling over the issue is over. The CPI(M) leadership has accepted the Congress's offer of the Speakership of the 14th Lok Sabha.

HT Image
HT Image

Veteran Marxist leader and 10-time Lok Sabha MP Somnath Chatterjee will be the presiding officer of the new Lok Sabha. The Hindustan Times has learnt from reliable Left quarters that former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu called up Chatterjee from Kolkata and asked him to accept the offer.

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Basu is understood to have told Chatterjee that it would be a "great honour" for him as well as for the Left Front in general and the CPI(M) in particular. The decision would be made formal within a day or two.

Chatterjee confirmed to HT that the Congress had approached party general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet with its offer to give the Speaker's post to the CPI(M).

A senior party leader said the offer could not be turned down because the party decided to stay out of the government. However, Chatterjee said over phone that "personally" he was still wondering whether to give up "speaking" on the floor of the House for the post of Speaker.

A section within the CPI(M) feels Chatterjee's elevation as Speaker will leave the Left Front without the services of its "best" parliamentarian. They feel he could have taken on the BJP and effectively voiced, as and when the need arose, the Marxist party's differences with the Congress.

However, Basu's line appears to have prevailed and it is now almost certain that Chatterjee will be the new Speaker.

A seasoned advocate, his oratorial skills are immense. In the 13th Lok Sabha, Chatterjee's impassioned speeches and command over facts had often humbled the BJP on issues crucial to secular forces.

Other than Chatterjee, the CPI(M) — in fact, the Left as a whole — does not have any effective candidate for the post. Party sources said if Chatterjee occupied the chair, younger MPs like Mohammad Selim and some from Kerala would be able to fill the gap, though it "cannot be compensated".

In the 13th Lok Sabha, the CPI(M)'s Basudev Acharia would stand-in in the absence of the Deputy Speaker, usually during the second half of daily proceedings. But party sources admit that though Acharia has command over issues related to the railways, he is no match for Chatterjee's "articulate" ways.

There were other names doing the rounds as well. The names of Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy, former Maharashtra Chief Minister E.R. Antulay and G. Venkataswamy were circulated, but the CPI(M)'s "positive" stand on Chatterjee settled the issue.

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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