The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Speaker crown awaits Somnath

New Delhi, May 21: Somnath Chatterjee, one of the best known faces in the Lok Sabha over the past three decades, is set to become its first Left Speaker.

The CPM leader confirmed that the Congress has offered him the post.

On Wednesday, the MP from Bolpur in Bengal met Sonia Gandhi. Today, her Congress colleague Pranab Mukherjee is believed to have discussed the proposal to make Chatterjee Speaker with CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

There are differing views within the CPM over Chatterjee occupying this important parliamentary post. His elevation would mean the CPM and even the Left would lose its most articulate speaker. “Many MPs do not want to let Chatterjee go,” a Left leader said.

But there are others who believe the veteran should accept the post since he is such an experienced parliamentary hand. Chatterjee enjoys acceptability among all sections in the House and most parties think he would make a “good” Speaker.

Chatterjee believes he will be able to manage unruly MPs. “I know I will be able to manage the House,” he said. Over a decade ago, the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh had asked Chatterjee to become Speaker. “I refused then because my party, the CPM, was not part of the government.”

The CPM is not part of the Congress-led coalition this time either. So how has the situation changed' “The CPM believes the party can play an important role in the legislature even though it is not part of the executive,” is the veteran’s response.

There has been no official word though from the party, which has declined to join the government.

Those who think Chatterjee should accept the post say the CPM now has several articulate MPs like Mohammad Salim, Basudev Barman and Amitava Nandy. “The new MPs will fill the void of good speaker(s) in the ranks of the Left,” a leader said. This would make it easier for Chatterjee to take up the Speaker’s post.

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