The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'Dictator' drops quit bombshell
- Matter of agony to occupy Speaker's chair, says Somnath

New Delhi, Dec. 16: Annoyed by the Opposition accusation that he was indulging in 'tanashahi (dictatorship)', Somnath Chatterjee took the Lok Sabha by surprise by offering to quit as Speaker when House proceedings began today.

'So long as I am here I shall try my best to discharge my duties and functions according to the rules of procedure and my conscience. If members are not happy with the present incumbent I shall have no regrets in leaving it,' Chatterjee said in a suo motu statement.

He took up question hour immediately after this amid complete silence from treasury and Opposition benches.

The Speaker was upset by the 'tanashahi bandh karo (stop your dictatorial ways)' slogans that BJP MPs raised in the well yesterday as they insisted that railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav come to the House to make a statement on Tuesday's train accident.

This slogan and another ' 'Laloo isteefa do (Laloo quit)' ' did the rounds when Chatterjee did not oblige the BJP-led Opposition by adjourning the House until Laloo Prasad came to make a statement.

'I have been accused (yesterday) of indulging in tanashahi,' the Speaker said in his statement. This is the second time a 'tanashahi nahin chalegi' slogan has been chanted in the 14th Lok Sabha ' the first being last July when the Opposition did not allow the House to function as they demanded that 'tainted' ministers be excluded from the Manmohan Singh government.

That experience had prompted an anguished Chatterjee ' whom the BJP asked not to deliver 'sermons' ' to call a news conference. 'I am pained. They are not listening to me in the House. Parliament has become irrelevant. The Speaker has become irrelevant,' he had said.

Today, the Speaker expressed his anguish at being called dictatorial and said he was ready to quit if the House did not want him in the chair.

'The chair does not have any prestige any longer and has become totally irrelevant and it has become a matter of agony for me to occupy this chair, which I never expected to do, far less solicited.' Chatterjee added that he was happy facing the chair instead of occupying it.

He said he did not wish to adjourn the House yesterday, but did so 'reluctantly and with great sorrow' at the request of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.

Outside the House, the BJP clarified that its 'tanashahi' slogan was directed at the government and not the Speaker. But spokesman V.K. Malhotra said the BJP was not happy at the functioning of the House.

There is speculation in National Democratic Alliance circles that some of its constituents are contemplating an impeachment motion against Chatterjee.

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