Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker, passes away

A 10-time MP of the Lok Sabha, Chatterjee represented Burdwan, Jadavpur and Bolpur parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal from 1971 to 2009.

Aug 13, 2018 10:41 IST
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Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee passed away on August 13, 2018 morning after suffering a heart attack at a hospital in Kolkata, West Bengal. He was 89. He is survived by a son Pratap Chatterjee and two daughters Anuradha and Anushila.

The 10-time parliamentarian was suffering from a kidney-related ailment; and had been in and out of hospital for the last two months. In July 2018, Chatterjee had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.

Chatterjee’s Contributions and Achievements

  • It was during Chatterjee’s term as the Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009 that DD Lok Sabha was replaced by Lok Sabha TV, a move that was recognised for increasing transparency of Parliament.
  • During his tenure as the Speaker, he discontinued the practice of paying for toiletries and tea from the national exchequer.
  • He had made immense contributions towards West Bengal’s transition by stimulating private investment to increase employment opportunities and overall development in the state.
  • As the Chairman of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation for about 10 years, he had piloted the organisation from 1994, when former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu began inviting private investments.

A glance at Chatterjee’s political career

• Chatterjee was the son of barrister Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a prominent parliamentarian of the Hindu Mahasabha, the ideological forerunner of Bharatiya Janata Party.

• An advocate by profession, he actively joined the politics in 1968.

• He was a Central Committee Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), which he had joined in 1968.

• A 10-time MP of the Lok Sabha, Chatterjee represented Burdwan, Jadavpur and Bolpur parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal from 1971 to 2009.

• He first contested for the Lok Sabha in 1971 from Burdwan constituency, a seat that fell vacant after his father, the incumbent, died. He went on to win nine more elections to the Lower House.

• He was first elected as the Member of Parliament in 1977 in the Lok Sabha from Jadavpur constituency and was reelected in 1980.

• He was once defeated in 1984 when he faced current West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, who was then in the Congress.

• From a by-election in 1985 to 2005, he won seven consecutive polls from Bolpur constituency in Birbhum district.

• He was awarded with the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 1994.

• He became the Speaker of Lok Sabha in 2004 when the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh came to power. He served the position till 2009.

• The veteran leader was expelled from the CPM in 2008 for refusing to resign as the Speaker after his party withdrew support to the UPA-I government.

• He retired from active politics in 2009.

What led to Chatterjee’s expulsion from the CPM?

Somnath Chatterjee was expelled from the CPM in 2008 after the party, one of the biggest allies of the UPA, withdrew support from the government over the India-US nuclear deal.

The party wanted Chatterjee to step down as the Speaker and vote against the government during the No-Confidence Motion. However, Chatterjee had refused to resign, maintaining that as Speaker, he was above party politics.

He was the first key leader to defy the party.