Sunday, March 1, 2009

Communism no party's monopoly: Somnath

New Delhi: A day after laying down office as Lok Sabha speaker, which also marked the conclusion of an almost four decade long political career, veteran leftist Somnath Chatterjee Friday asserted that communism was no political party's "monopoly" - and that he would forever remain a "comrade".

"Communism is no party's monopoly. I am still a communist," a relaxed Chatterjee, who was expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for defying a diktat to step down ahead of a trust vote in parliament last year, told reporters here.

Asked if he was still a comrade, he laughed and told the questioner: "Even you are a comrade."

The CPI-M expelled Chatterjee when he refused to step down as speaker after the Left withdrew support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led government over the India-US nuclear deal, prompting the July 22, 2008 trust vote in the Lok Sabha.

"Once you become a speaker you must dissociate yourself from the party," he added, reiterating a point he made during his farewell address in the Lok Sabha Thursday that the speaker's office was above party politics.

In reply to a question on whether ever he would contest an election, he replied: "I had said that I should go into sanyas (retirement) much before the incident (the expulsion) which you refer to."

Pointedly asked if he would have contested the coming Lok Sabha elections if his Bolpur constituency in West Bengal had not been placed in the category reserved for the Scheduled Castes, he retorted: "I had said that I would not contest any election."

Speaking about his experiences as the Lok Sabha speaker, Chatterjee was unhappy over the frequent disruptions of the house but said despite these "aberrations" the house had been doing its duty.

Holding that MPs should participate in the progress of the country, he said: "I appeal to the good people to join politics to change it."

He also expressed his sorrow that a bill to reserve one-third of seats in parliament and the state legislatures for women could not passed during his tenure.

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