Sir — The expulsion of Somnath Chatterjee from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has enhanced the image of the Lok Sabha speaker as much as it has tarnished Prakash Karat’s. Most of those who watched the debate on the nuclear deal and the subsequent trust vote would agree that no one could have handled the turbulent Lok Sabha as well as Chatterjee did. His ‘blow hot, blow cold’ manner of conducting the debate, with a generous sprinkling of humour (for instance, his smiling instruction, “I may not be handsome, but look at me”, in order to draw the attention of the members) proved extremely effective. At the end of the day, it is Chatterjee who stands taller than Karat, the gentleman who read out his marching order.
The departure of Chatterjee is sure to be a loss for the CPI(M) and the Left. With the rigid Karat in the driver’s seat and none of Chatterjee’s stature to counter his hardline views, the Left’s strategies may weaken. Other parties will reap the benefit by default.
Suman S. Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir — The politburo of the CPI(M) has justifiably expelled Somnath Chatterjee, who had chosen to sacrifice his loyalty to his party to enjoy the singular authority of the speaker (“Karat’s kangaroo court”, July 24). The ungrateful leader has forgotten how his party had contributed to his political identity. It was because of the CPI(M)’s power and influence in Bengal that he enjoyed the two-decade-long chairmanship of the Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority. During his tenure, a spate of construction has all but spoilt the serenity of Santiniketan. If he was indeed so committed to fulfilling his constitutionally assigned non-partisan role, he should himself have resigned from the party after being elected the speaker of the Lok Sabha.
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta
Sir — There might be more to the story of Somnath Chatterjee’s constitutional martyrdom than meets the eye. Some feel that his desperation to cling to the speaker’s seat defying warnings from his party hints at his desire to clinch presidential privileges in future. While conducting the debate in the House, he seemed to be partial towards members of the ruling combine. On quite a few occasions, Chatterjee silenced Opposition MPs in a dictatorial fashion. Hence there is no reason to think that he fulfilled his constitutional obligations to the best of his ability.
Sibananda Kakoti, Nagaon, Assam
Sir — Somnath Chatterjee prioritized his constitutional commitment over his liabilities to his party. Those politburo members who do not hail from West Bengal are perhaps not fully aware of Chatterjee’s contributions to the party’s state wing, in terms of electoral gains and otherwise. The proceedings of the politburo meeting which decided on Chatterjee’s fate were also shrouded in secrecy. No warning or notice was officially issued to the speaker. Then there were the baffling prevarications of politburo members after hurriedly sending Chatterjee’s name in the list of Left MPs to the president. The senior party leader, Jyoti Basu, quite clearly disapproved of Prakash Karat’s intransigence on this issue. In deference to the seniority and dedication of the comrade, the expulsion order should have been tempered to a temporary suspension.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — It was a great relief to find that Somnath Chatterjee has refused to submit to the unfair demands of his party. Prakash Karat needs to be reminded that he can punish members of his party, but not the unanimously elected speaker of the Lok Sabha. Thankfully, Chatterjee does not share Karat’s condescension towards the Constitution.
Ajit Kr Mukherjee,
Sir — Somnath Chatterjee’s sincere service of 40 years has been eclipsed by the vicious game of Prakash Karat’s political egotism. What rankled more than the decision to expel Chatterjee from the party was the way he was maligned by many of his former colleagues. The veteran politician has been vilified as a ‘traitor’ and a ‘bourgeois’. Karat probably does not realize that the shameless display of his vindictiveness will diminish his stature even further and will garner more support for Chatterjee from all quarters. The fact that a clause of the party constitution (number 13 in article 19) was placed ahead of the Indian Constitution, makes the irrationality of Karat & Co. quite obvious.
K.A. Solaman, Alappuzha,
Sir — We all suspected that democracy was a word which was not there in the CPI(M) lexicon, but the expulsion of Somnath Chatterjee has confirmed it. History will tell how much damage Prakash Karat’s appetite for revenge has done to the CPI(M), but it is certain that the extent of the damage will be far greater than what Chatterjee’s so-called treachery may have brought about.
Lalan Chakraborty, Patna
Sir — For the thousands of people who have been following the recent parliamentary proceedings, only Somnath Chatterjee has emerged fully clothed. All the rest appeared, figuratively speaking, to be in various stages of undress.
A.K. Singh, Ranchi
Sir — The argument that Somnath Chatterjee ought to have resigned as the speaker of the Lok Sabha as soon as the Left parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government defies logic, common sense as well as parliamentary norm. The CPI(M) ‘lent’ Chatterjee to the Lok Sabha and not to the government of Manmohan Singh. The parliament and the government are two distinct constitutional entities. Chatterjee may have been obligated to put in his papers as the speaker and to resign his Lok Sabha membership only if all the party MPs had decided to relinquish theirs.
T. Taavri, Calcutta