People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

August 03 , 2008


On The Expulsion Of Somnath Chatterjee

SOME constitutional and legal experts have been arguing that the post of Lok Sabha speaker is above parties. They have been citing the British precedent whereby a person who becomes speaker severs their relations with the party to which they belong. In the British system, if the speaker contests the election again, no candidate is put up in his or her constituency against him or her.

The situation in India is different. A person who becomes the speaker need not sever his or her ties with the party on whose ticket he or she has been elected.  While occupying the post of speaker, he or she should not indulge in party political activities, or, adopt partisan party positions.  After a person ceases to be the speaker, he or she resumes the political activities on behalf of their party. We have a number of former speakers who are active in politics with party affiliation.  One of them, Shivraj Patil, is also in the union cabinet.

The Congress leadership requested the CPI(M) to allow Somnath Chatterjee to be the speaker, when the CPI(M) had decided to support the UPA government in May 2004. Obviously, the Congress leadership would not have thought of Somnath Chatterjee as speaker if he has been in the opposition. When the CPI(M) decided to withdraw support to the government, the continuance of Somnath Chatterjee as the speaker became untenable as he is a member of the CPI(M) and was also elected to the Lok Sabha as a CPI(M) candidate.

The Party took the position that it was for the speaker to take a decision keeping in mind the circumstances consequent to the withdrawal of support to the government by the Party. It was the understanding of the Party that Somnath Chatterjee would step down  from the post of  speaker before the trust vote because he is a Party member. However, Somnath Chatterjee did not do so.

The Polit Bureau and the Central Committee of the Party met on July 19-20, 2008.  The PB discussed the matter and took the stand that Somnath Chatterjee should step down from the post of speaker before the trust vote session begins on July 21. The Central Committee endorsed this stand. This decision of the PB was conveyed to Somnath Chatterjee on July 20. He refused to comply with the decision.

The CPI(M) had decided to vote against the Manmohan Singh government and to work for its defeat. Somnath Chatterjee, as a Party member, by presiding over the session where the trust vote was taken in the Lok Sabha, had seriously compromised the position of the Party.

The Polit Bureau had unanimously decided in its meeting on July 20 that in case he refuses to comply with the Party decision, he should be expelled immediately after the Lok Sabha session.  This was implemented on July 23.