AS Somnath Chatterjee begins what could very well be his last session as Lok Sabha Speaker tomorrow,there is no hiding his anguish at being expelled from the CPM.
Speaking to The Indian Express,he said: I have never questioned the authority of the party to expel me. I have not questioned it,I have not challenged it. At the highest level,they have decided that I am not fit to be in that party and I have accepted it. Why should I try to impose myself on them through other processes? Thats that. Thats the greatest scar in my heart,I shall carry it till my last breath, he said. I have donated my body to a hospital…Therefore,I am not going to the grave but to the hospital with the scar.
(The full text of the interview will be published tomorrow)
In the run-up to his expulsion,during the controversy around the nuclear deal trust vote in Parliament when the CPM wanted him to quit,Chatterjee said that CPM veteran Jyoti Basu had not asked him to quit when they met in Kolkata in July 2008,days before the vote.
Asked about that conversation,Chatterjee said: For that,you have to wait for my memoirs. Except that I can say,If he had said that day to resign,I would have done that. Unquestionably,unhesitatingly.
Chatterjee added: But I have a right to disagree with certain things. I disagreed then and I disagree now about (the partys view on) participation in governance. I think that was a blunder. I reiterate that,along with comrade Jyoti Basu (who called the CPMs decision not to agree to the proposal to make him the Prime Minister a historic blunder). I know I cannot be expelled again for saying this. I am already expelled,I am a free man.
Chatterjee,however,clarified he was never a candidate for the post of President. I can tell you with all my honesty and modesty but with total conviction that I never,never,never,never,never even dreamt of it or asked for it, he said.
He said: Comrade Prakash (Karat) came to me and told me that the party has decided not to propose a name for the post of President. I only said,Why have you come and told me? Did I ask anybody,anybody,anybody,anybody in this world?
He said that becoming the Speaker itself was a surprising situation. I know my partys stand…the then partys.
A President has to say my government has done it,how can a Communist say My government?
Referring to the debate about the V S Achuthanadans difference with the CPM on the CBIs request for prosecuting party state chief Pinarayi Vijayan,Chatterjee said: You cannot be a Chief Minister by ignoring the Constitution. Some people have reminded me correctly that the country has a Constitution and the party has a constitution. But so far as official activity is concerned,it has to be the Constitution of India. As Speaker,I cannot say that under such and such rule of the CPM,I overrule this. Can I say that? Can the Chief Minister say that?
Chatterjee said that his strong positions on issues,more often than not misunderstood,were to reiterate the supremacy of Parliament. Thats why he opposed ordinances,such as the one on judges salary. I hope judges will not accept the pay hike that will come to them through an ordinance, he said.
Looking back at the term as Speaker,Chatterjee said he was going with a feeling of under-achievement as the space for meaningful debate had shrunk because of politics of confrontation. He felt the day cash was brought to the House (cash-for-votes scandal) as the worst day in the history of Parliament. If there was a genuine attempt to bribe,thats condemnable but that does not minimise the crime that was committed by bringing it (the money) inside the House, he said.
When asked about the possibility of a return to the CPM,he said: Not on my account,not on my initiative… Otherwise I would have tried earlier…because I am no longer of any use to the party. The party has no use for me and I have no future for myself.
As he begins his long walk out of an eventful political life spanning about four decades,the MP who was the voice of the CPM in Parliament for long,and always its quintessential outsider,hopes his contributions to Parliament will stay on: the Lok Sabha Channel,the Museum and the Hiren Mukherjee memorial lecture. What next? Go to Shantiniketan,do some social work,read a lot of books and listen to music.