The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia walks, not CPM

New Delhi, March 23: The CPM has dug in its heels and refused to follow in Sonia Gandhi’s footsteps.

According to a list submitted by Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to the President, 10 CPM MPs, including Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, are guilty of holding offices of profit.

The CPM, which insists these are not offices of profit, is ready for a fight. “Our MPs are ready to face disqualification,” general secretary Prakash Karat said within hours of Sonia’s resignation from the Lok Sabha and the National Advisory Council.

The Speaker’s office said: “Somnath Chatterjee will not resign. He is not holding an office of profit.”

All day long, the party appeared defiant. “Why should we be on the defensive'” asked CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury. “All our MPs have taken prior permission from Parliament (for occupying the positions they do outside Parliament). It is the ruling party and the Opposition which should be concerned.”

Sonia spared the CPM embarrassment by scuttling the proposed ordinance on offices of profit. The party and the Left Front have always been against ordinances on the ground that it is a way of bringing in policies through the backdoor. Had the government issued one, the CPM would have been in a spot.

All through the morning CPM leaders had dodged a response on the issue. It was still not clear that Sonia had forced the government to jettison the proposal. A relieved Karat later said: “The government is not bringing an ordinance.”

But the Left does want the government to bring a law to clear the confusion on offices of profit. “Parliament should immediately bring a legislation in order to put certain offices held by the MPs outside the purview of office of profit,” the CPM said in a statement.

For instance, the party does not consider the post held by Somnath Chatterjee in Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority an office of profit. Chatterjee is chairman of the organisation.

“It is necessary for MPs to discharge various responsibilities as part of their public service. It will not be proper to bring all positions under office of power,” the CPM said.

In a delayed expression of regret, the party said: “It is unfortunate that Jaya Bachchan has been disqualified under the existing law because Parliament has not legislated a law.”

Privately, the Left leaders blamed the Congress for not initiating the process of legislation soon after Jaya’s disqualification.

“The Congress should have started the process of bringing a legislation. There would not have been any need for an ordinance then,” a Left leader said.

“It is imperative that Parliament immediately takes up the issue and adopts the necessary legislation so that disqualification under Article 102 of the Constitution for office of profit is not applied indiscriminately and sweepingly,” the CPM said.

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