He may not have been introduced as a ‘comrade’ by the Communist Party of India — the party he served for four decades — in its condolence message posted on Twitter, but Somnath Chatterjee lived and died a staunch communist.
CPIM PolitBuro expresses its grief & sorrow at the death of former Speaker &10 time Lok Sabha MP, #SomnathChatterjee.
He played an important role in defending the foundations of the Indian Constitution particularly its secular democratic foundations and federalism.
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) August 13, 2018
Born at Tezpur in Assam on 25 July 1929 to NC Chatterjee and Binapani Debi, 10-time parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee received his education in Kolkata and acquired the Barrister-at-Law degree from Middle Temple in United Kingdom.
Despite the fact that his father was once the president of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Somnath joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and remained a key leader of the party between 1968 and 2008. He was the first Left leader to occupy the chair of the Lok Sabha Speaker.
Somnath Chatterjee was expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist on 23 July 2008, “for seriously compromising the position of the party” after he refused to resign as the Lok Sabha Speaker when asked by the party leadership.
CPI-M withdrew support to the first United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 over the India-US civil nuclear deal and asked Somnath to quit as the Speaker, but he didn’t budge, saying the position of Speaker was above party politics. After being expelled by the CPM, Somnath had said “it was the saddest day of his life”. He retired from active politics in 2009.
Somnath was the leader of the CPI(M) in the Lok Sabha from 1989 to 2004.
Somnath was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971 as a CPM-backed independent candidate to a seat in a bypoll necessitated due to the death of his father. He lost the elections only once in 1984 to Mamata Banerjee.
It was on Somnath’s initiative as the Lok Sabha Speaker that the proceedings of Zero Hour were telecast live in 2004. Lok Sabha TV channel too came into being during his tenure as the Lok Sabha Speaker.
He was conferred with the ‘Outstanding Parliamentarian Award’ in 1996. He was respected by leaders of all political parties. Somnath was known for his debating skills with vast knowledge of national and international issues.
Somnath was suffering from a kidney ailment and was hospitalised several times in the last two months. Somnath had pledged his body for medical research.