TRIBUTE TO A GREAT PARLIAMENTARIAN
In 1964 CPI split when 32 of its national council members walked out rejecting CPI's tactical line to support then National Congress. Later these leaders formed a new political party known as the CPM which led by great revolutionaries like BT Randive, Puchalapalli Sundarayya, M. Basavpiniah, EMS Naboodiripad, Joyti Basu for about half the century. In fact, CPM had gone through testing time during 1960s & 70s oppressive regime in West Bengal led by Late Siddhartha Shaker Ray followed by the declaration of the State of Emergency in India in 1975. Due to CPM's militant organizational structure under the leadership of Promod Das Gupta and Hare Krishan Konar party not only survived the worst oppressive regime but emerged with flying colors in 1977 general elections badly defeating the Congress in West Bengal and ruled it for 35 years until 2000 when Joyti Basu retired from active politics and the leadership was transferred to Buddhdeb Bhattacharya who remained Chief Minister of West Bengal until 2011 with series of failures and disastrous in Singuir and Nandigram. In 2004 CPM led left front got 62 seats in Parliament and under the leadership of Hare Krishan Surjit landed support to Congress led UPA government which was considered as the worst enemy beg an agent of imperialist and representing the interest of the monopoly capitalist. This was an about turn on CPM's historical understanding of Congress class character and tactical line. CPM was perceived as the collaborator then a revolutionary party which disillusioned its rank and file and cadre. After the retirement of ailing Hare Krishan Surjit CPM leadership ended up in the hands of petty bourgeois leadership with no mass-base which burnt midnight oil in hobnobbing with the Congress resulting in disastrous outcome in 2009 with 24 seats and 16 in 2014. To put a last nail in the Coffin Sitaram Yechuri newly nominated General Secretary bent backward to enter into elections alliance with Congress in West Bengal in spite of the Central Committee's resolution not to do so which resulted in disastrous outcome routed CPM in West Bengal in 20113 & 16 and Mamata Banerjee emerged Avante Garde Champion of people.
In fact, 2004 was a turning point in CPM's departure from its tactical line and Somnath Chatterjee was the product of that tactical line! Son of Mr. NC Chatterjee President of Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha. In 1971 he got elected to Rajya Sabha with the support of CPM and subsequently he got elected nine times except in 1984 when lots to Mamata Banerjee paving way forward for her into serious politics. He qualified Bar-at Law at the Middle Temple Inn in London and got unanimously elected as speaker in 2004 for his outstanding performance in parliament but soft line. No doubt the he was a great parliamentarian like Hiren Mukherjee of the CPI who has been honored on many occasions by Parliament.
Besides do away with the practice of paying for toiletries and tea from the national exchequer under his tenure as he was also instrumental in starting a full-fledged 24–hour Lok Sabha television channel and telecasting live the proceedings of the zero hours. In 2008, was expelled from his party for refusing to resign as the Speaker after his party withdrew support to the UPA-I government. He believed the Speaker's post is above any party politics. He described it as the “saddest day of his life".
During Anna Hazzare's crusade against corruption which attracted stunning response from general public, in general, members of the Parliament behaved irresponsibly and in that regard conduct of Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Sarad Yadav, Manish Tiwary, Laloo Prasad Yadav was highly deplorable and conduct of the opposition led by Sushma Swaraj and Mr. Yechuri was wavering and far from clear. Somnath Chatterjee, Ex-Speaker, appeared on NDTV from nowhere and played devil on behalf of the UPA although the attack was not on an individual but institutionalized corruption. i.e., system failed them. Although people were sympathetic to him when he was expelled from the CPM in retrospect it appears Prakash Karat was right in having expelled him. At the moment of truth, one has to make hard choice between his Party decision v his duty to the constitution unfortunately, he chose the latter which was darn wrong! Of course, he had chosen the bourgeois politics over the ideology. Perhaps, he forgot the Maoist debate Red v Expert although even Bertrand Russell said while on his death bed, "It is better to be red than dead". One wonders in spite of his long career as a parliamentary communist he was able to declass himself from his petty bourgeois class background?
Prof Suresh Deman