Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee dies in Kolkata at 89
He was suffering from kidney-related ailments and was put on ventilator support on Sunday after he suffered a heart attack.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee died at Belle Veu Clinic in Kolkata on Monday morning. The 89-year-old former Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, who was suffering from kidney-related ailments, was put on ventilator support on Sunday after he suffered a heart attack.
He was hospitalised on August 7. In July, Chatterjee had suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. while in June, the 89-year-old was admitted to the critical care unit of a private hospital in Kolkata with a brain clot. He was also suffering from ailments in his lungs, liver and urinary tract. In 2014, Chatterjee had suffered a mild cerebral stroke.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Chatterjee’s body would be kept at the party office in Kolkata and then taken to the state Assembly. His body will then be handed over to a hospital since Chatterjee had donated his body for medical research.
Later in the day, his family rejected a request by the CPI(M) leadership to drape Chatterjee’s body in the red flag and allow him to be taken to the party’s state headquarters in Kolkata.
“The party had requested us that they want to take the body to the state headquarters for partymen to pay their respects. But we said, we don’t want,” said Chatterjee’s daughter, Anushila Basu, who recalled that her father cried the day he was expelled from the party. “The party had requested us that they wanted to drape the body with red flag. We refused.”
Chatterjee was a central committee member of the CPI(M) and a 10-time Lok Sabha MP. He was the Lok Sabha Speaker from 2004 to 2009. He was expelled from the CPI(M) in 2008 after he refused to step down as the Speaker when the party withdrew support from the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.
He was a ‘stalwart of Indian politics’, says Modi
Several leaders expressed their condolences to Chatterjee’s family. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Chatterjee a stalwart of Indian politics. “He made our Parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable,” the prime minister said. “Anguished by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and supporters.”
President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Speaker of the Lok Sabha and a veteran parliamentarian who had a forceful presence in the House. A loss for public life in Bengal and India.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said “he was an institution”. “Greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians, across party lines,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Chatterjee was one of the greatest parliamentarians of contemporary times. “He will be remembered among the greatest Lok Sabha Speakers India ever had,” Kejriwal said.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said Chatterjee was like a “big brother” to her and that his tenure as speaker had guided her own. “Our ideology was different but still, from the time I entered Parliament in ’89, I used to see how he used to raise issues while following every rule.”
Former Vice President Hamid Ansari said Chatterjee has left behind a void. “He was a very eminent parliamentarian [and] a man of great erudition, a speaker who added lustre to the chair,” he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Chatterjee’s death was a great loss for everyone. Former President Pranab Mukherjee said the Chatterjee was an outstanding parliamentarian and constitutionalist. “In his demise I have lost a personal friend and the nation has lost a great son,” Mukherjee said on Twitter.
CPI(M) West Bengal secretariat member Rabin Deb said, “Somnath da is Somnath da. He is incomparable. We had tried to resolve the issue [of his expulsion]. But it got stalled on a technicality.”