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Not Much Hope For CPM Unless It Reconsiders Its Decision To Snub Congress: Somnath Chatterjee

Chatterjee, a 10-time Lok Sabha MP and Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha, was expelled from the CPI-M in 2008 for refusing to toe the party line and stay on as Speaker.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay | CNN-News18

Updated:January 25, 2018, 9:52 PM IST
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Not Much Hope For CPM Unless It Reconsiders Its Decision To Snub Congress: Somnath Chatterjee
File photo of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. (Photo: REUTERS/B Mathur)
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At the age of 88, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee has multiple fronts to battle melancholy. Of the ones he can talk about publicly, Chatterjee’s disappointment with the CPI-M and the way the party’s general secretary finds himself cornered among his colleagues perhaps tops the chart.

“The agony of the CPM is that Sitaram Yechury, the party’s general secretary, doesn’t seem to have the authority to make vital policy decisions. It is clear that the majority members of the central committee and politburo are with Prakash Karat, the former general secretary, even though Yechury is one of the most acceptable leaders in the party,” Chatterjee said during an exclusive interaction with CNN-News18 in the context of the outcome of the latest Central Committee meeting of the CPI-M in Kolkata.

Chatterjee considers the CPI-M central committee resolution to not enter into any pre-poll alliance or understanding with the Congress Party ahead of the 2019 General Elections “a setback”. He feels the decision would mar the chances of recovery of the already ailing CPI-M in the political arena of the country.

“The resolution would be to the advantage of the BJP. It must have made the BJP leaders very happy to see that Karat drove his stand up to the point where Yechury expressed his wish to quit,” the former CPM leader said, sounding exasperated.

Chatterjee, a 10-time Lok Sabha MP and Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha, was expelled from the CPI-M in 2008 for refusing to toe the party line and stay on as Speaker when the Prakash Karat-led Marxists moved no-confidence against the first UPA government over the controversial Indo-US civil nuclear deal. He subsequently retired from active politics.

In an interview to this correspondent in April 2015 after Yechury took over the reins of the CPI-M from Karat as its fifth general secretary at the party’s Visakhapatanam congress, Chatterjee made no efforts to hide his pleasure and considered the development a “much-needed change”. Three years later, that enthusiasm was evidently lost. “I am no longer a member of the CPM. But I am still one of its ardent supporters. And I feel that effective control resting with someone else other than the elected general secretary is detrimental to the cause of the party,” he said.

“There is a dire need for the Left to re-establish its foothold in India’s politics. Only the Left parties can espouse the cause of the vast multitude of exploited people in India comprising workers and peasants. Without the Left, who else can represent the interests of this great majority in the country’s highest democratic institutions like the Parliament? Policy decisions like these are exactly what the doctor did not order for the recovery of parties like CPM. It’s a great loss and even anti-people,” Chatterjee opined.

Pointing out that the CPI-M currently has hardly any presence in either of the two houses of the Parliament, Chatterjee maintained that the decision to snub the Congress would cost the CPM dearly in states like West Bengal where the party has experienced unprecedented erosion of vote bank support in the past few years. “Who apart from the Congress is there to take on the ruling communal establishment at the current national juncture? Even more so after the Gujarat election results seemed to indicate that the Congress is on a recovery path,” Chatterjee argued.

“I hope that some good sense will prevail within the CPM before the elections. Else, there isn’t much hope,” he sighed.

But despite his support for Yechury, Chatterjee doesn’t approve of his attempts to move impeachment motion in Parliament against Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra. “This will not be in the best interest of the country. The Supreme Court is the last hope of justice for the people of this country. The court’s dignity and sanctity of India’s Constitution should be preserved at all costs. The matter should not be made political,” Chatterjee, a former advocate at the Calcutta High Court, asserted.
| Edited by: Tarun Bhardwaj
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