Releases book by former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee

Maintaining that contrary opinions should not be ignored, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the former Lok Sabha Speaker and expelled Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Somnath Chatterjee had “risen above his party and his ideology to do what he believes is right.”

Releasing a book, Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian, authored by Mr. Chatterjee here, Dr. Singh said, “if we are to rise above natural orthodoxy of government functioning, then we should not shy away from a constructive debate of different points of view. If we are to think big and if we are to think boldly about the challenges and opportunities before us, we cannot do so by ignoring contrary opinions,” he said.

Observing that Mr. Chatterjee's finest hour in his long and distinguished political career was as the Speaker, Dr. Singh said the ex-CPI(M) veteran had ignored the party diktat that he quit and vote against the UPA-I government during the confidence vote in the House in July 2008 on the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal issue.

Mr. Chatterjee, who has criticised CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat in the book for “disastrous” policies that had led to the Left debacle in 2009, however thanked his parent party for having fielded him for 11 consecutive terms as Lok Sabha candidate and termed it “a record.”

“Later, they found that I have become unsuitable. That was indeed a very sad day of my life,” the former Speaker said, adding “I never questioned that [expulsion from the party] and never appealed for a review [of the decision].”

Maintaining that the country had shown the capacity and resilience to overcome trials and tribulations, Dr. Singh said: “We have withstood serious challenges on the economic and security front and even emerged stronger afterwards.”

The Prime Minister said the country must have a way to resolve creative tensions in the development process and move ahead. “One of the issues that faces the Indian polity is how to make the functioning of Parliament more effective and meaningful,” Dr. Singh, who was flanked by Mr. Chatterjee and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar at the function, said.

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