Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee passed away on Monday aged 89. His health condition had deteriorated on Sunday and he was readmitted to a hospital in Kolkata. Chatterjee had earlier suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in June after which his health declined. He had also suffered a mild cerebral stroke back in 2014.
Chatterjee, who was associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), served as Lok Sabha Speaker from 2004 to 2009 during the UPA-I rule. An advocate by profession, he actively joined politics in 1968. He became a Member of the Lok Sabha in 1971 and was elected for the first time as an independent candidate supported by the CPI(M).
One of the longest-serving parliamentarians, Chatterjee, was a ten-time Lok Sabha MP–from 1971 to 2009–except, the 1984 election when he was defeated by Mamata Banerjee. In 1996, he was honoured with the ‘Outstanding Parliamentarian Award.’ Following the 2004 Lok Sabha General Election, Chatterjee was appointed as the pro tem speaker and was subsequently elected as the Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha. He was the second pro tem Speaker after Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar to be elected unanimously to the House.
During his tenure as the Speaker, Chatterjee discontinued the practice of paying for toiletries and tea from the national exchequer. He also insisted on paying the expenses of any accompanying family members on foreign trips.
In 2008, he was expelled from CPI (M) for not resigning as the Speaker after the party withdrew’s its support to the UPA alliance. Chatterjee refused to vote against the government during the No-Confidence Motion in 2008, as it would mean voting alongside the opposition party BJP. According to Chatterjee, the expulsion was “one of the saddest days” of his life. He retired from active politics in 2009.