Communist veteran and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee passed away at a private hospital here following multiple organ failure, a senior hospital official said.
He was 89 and is survived by wife, a son and two daughters.
Chatterjee passed away around 8-15 am after his condition deteriorated following Sunday’s “mild heart attack”, the official said. He was suffering from a kidney-related ailment and was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition last week.
As the last phase of his long political career had been dogged by controversy and confrontation with the party he belonged to and worked for decades earning high esteem from the whole political spectrum, his death also triggered a bitter exchange between his family and the CPI-M leadership.
The towering Marxist parliamentarian had lamented as a sad day of his life when the CPI-M under the leadership of its then general secretary Prakash Karat expelled him from the party after he refused to resign as LS Speaker as dictated by the party following the Left withdrawal of support from
the UPA I-government.
His daughter, Ms Anushila Basu recalled the day when she had broken
the news and tears rolled down his cheeks.
On Monday, the family hit back at the party that heaped such insult on him. It categorically turned down the CPI-M’s request to allow the body to be draped
in the party’s red flag and be taken to the party state headquarters at Alimuddin Street.
The son of the former LS Speaker, Pratap Chatterjee, was heard asking the CPI-M former state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose why he had visited the house and then he told Mr Bose to leave the place. Later, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, known to be a Chatterjee loyalist,
visited the house and met the family members.
When Mr Bose tried to accompany Mr Yechury to the house, he was again
stopped. When asked, Mr Bose only said there was “a noise explosion” in the house and he couldn’t hear anything. Mr Yechury said: “We are deeply mourning the death of Somnathda. I wish that his family can overcome the situation as soon as possible.”
However, CPI-M MLA Sujan Chakraborty said: “Mr Chatterjee was a Leftist at heart. But, we respect the family’s decision and so we did not force them to take his mortal remains to Alimuddin Street.”
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, visited the house to offer her homage to the leader.
She said: “I received the first call from Mr Chatterjee after becoming the Lok Sabha Speaker. Not only had he helped me throughout my journey, his guidance was a great help.”
Meanwhile, Basanta Roy Road, a quiet neighbourhood off Vivekananda Park, was transformed into a crowded thoroughfare as people from different walks of life made a beeline for house for a last glimpse of the mortal remains of the leader.
He was taken to his house around 3 pm.
State Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee also visited his house. Ms Mahajan said, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi visited his house to pay his condolence. He said : “Mr Chatterjee was a veteran politician, a great Parliamentarian. It is end of an era.”
State minister Sadhan Pandey, CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra and Trinamul MP Sugata Bose visited the house.
Condoling his death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was a stalwart of Indian politics. “He made our parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable,” the Prime Minister said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said Chatterjee was an institution who was greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians across party lines.
“He was a remarkable human being, an eminent parliamentarian and a very clear headed speaker of the Lok Sabha. I convey my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family,” said former vice president M Hamid Ansari in a condolence message.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the death of “Somnath Da” was a “great loss for us all”.
Indranil Sen, information and cultural affairs minister was present there throughout and helped the family members manage the entire situation.
Somnath Chatterjee was hospitalised in a critical condition last week, and he suffered a heart attack on Sunday morning. The veteran Left leader was being treated in the intensive cardiac care unit (ICCU) of of Bellevue Clinic in Kolkata. He had been undergoing dialysis, and was put on ventilator support.
He was suffering from a kidney-related ailment, and was admitted to the nursing home on June 25 after he suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. After treatment for 40 days, he had been discharged, but had to be brought back to the hospital after just three days as his condition deteriorated on August 7.
Chatterjee, regarded as an outstanding parliamentarian, had been the Lok Sabha Speaker from 2004 to 2009.
A 10-time Lok Sabha member, Somnath Chatterjee was expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist on July 23, 2008, “for seriously compromising the position of the party” as he had refused to resign as the Speaker after the CPI-M withdrew support to the first United Progressive Alliance government over the India-US civil nuclear deal.