Tuesday, August 07, 2007

‘Da’-the ‘Som’(raas) socialist!

The erudite Speaker of the Lok Sabha has had an unblemished & impeccable Parliamentary record
Somnath Chatterjee may or may not become the first ‘Communist’ President of India, but he will certainly go down in history as one of the most controversial Speakers the Lok Sabha has ever had. His run-ins with the Opposition & the judiciary have been making headlines ever since he took over as Speaker on June 4, 2004. During his earlier nine stints in the Lok Sabha, he was one of the most seasoned orator. He seems to have carried forward the legacy to the post of Lok Sabha Speaker, as his is, still the most resounding and frequently heard voice in the lower house of Parliament.

Chatterjee represents the Bhadralok. Despite having studied Law in UK, Somnath is known for his love for everything Bengali, ranging from dhoti to Rabindra Sangeet. He is also famous for his love for good food & good life. Coincidentally, he represents the Bolpur constituency in the Parliament, which includes Shantiniketan – the land of Rabindranath Tagore. In the times of Nandigram conflict, the fact that the land around Shantiniketan, amidst the surrounding Kopai River, is one of the most sought after real estates in West Bengal may go against him. “He converted the desert-like area into a green belt sending the land prices skyrocketing”, cribs Bishwabhuti Guha, a local resident. A case of a do-gooder being condemned, indeed! But, that is not the only instance of Somnath being at the receiving end for no fault of his. The stories about his Presidential aspiration being another example.

What prompted such stories was an innocuous comment delivered on a TV channel after prolonged prodding. Asked whether he would accept the post of President of India, if it was offered to him, Somnath replied, “Who won’t be proud to accept the post. I will indeed be most honoured.” The stories triggered by his statement couldn’t be stemmed even after his categorical denials that “nobody approached him with the offer and I too didn’t discuss with anybody.” Chatterjee’s stint on the Speaker’s chair was marked by near absence of trust between him and the Opposition, mainly the BJP, which threatened to move a no confidence motion against him at least on two occasions. But, Somnath is not someone to be cowed down by threats. He not only carried on with the job undeterred, but also earned the dubious distinction of being the first Speaker to have conducted the business of the House amidst din & shouting. He is also the first Speaker to have been accused of holding office of profit as Chairman, Sriniketan - Shantiniketan Development Authority ,for which the Opposition demanded termination of his Lok Sabha membership. “This is character assassination of not only an individual but of office of the Speaker,” he shot back belligerently.

Somnath fiercely guards legislature’s supremacy over judiciary and doesn't mince words in condemning Supreme Court’s ‘interference’ in formation of the Jharkhand government and apex court’s stay on the OBC reservation law passed by the Parliament. “Judiciary can’t solve all problems plaguing the country like infant mortality, child marriages and female foeticide,” he mocked at the judiciary recently. Coming from a barrister, such diatribe was a rude shock to the legal community. Somnath Da, as he is fondly called, has never been elected to the top policy making body of the party politburo. His father N. C. Banerjee was a Hindu Mahasabha leader. On his return from UK, Somnath joined CPI (M) and became close to Jyoti Basu, who was instrumental in getting him into CPI (M) Central Committee in 1984. His proximity to Basu is said to be the reason he could never cozy up to the next incumbent Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. But, that’s not an impediment in his ascent to being the first citizen of India. The actual hurdle is lack of support from allies, especially Congress, which wants to install its own man on Raisina Hills. Better luck next time Somnath Da!!

For Complete IIPM Article, Click on IIPM Article

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2007

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

1 comment:

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