Neena Vyas

Expulsion from the party the ‘saddest day in my life’

My unanimous election as Speaker a matter of satisfaction

I have allowed more adjournment motions than did previous Speakers

NEW DELHI: Ready to take “sanyas” from politics, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee made it clear on Friday. He said that after nearly five years as presiding officer, he would leave the office with some regrets, some satisfaction and a lot of emotion, especially since this Lok Sabha also marked the end of his association with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

“Wait for memoirs”

In a clear reference to his expulsion from the party after he refused to quit as Speaker during the July 2008 trust vote, Mr. Chatterjee made it clear that for details of that episode and behind-the-scenes action in Parliament over the last five years, the media and people would have to wait for publication of his memoirs.

As for contesting the general election, he had made his position clear that he would not contest. “I am leaving this office without having had job satisfaction. I accepted the position as all parties agreed to support my candidature, and my unanimous election as Speaker was a matter of satisfaction,” he said.

There was more than a hint from him that those who charged him with a partisan approach should look at footage of the Lok Sabha proceedings, see statistics and tell him which important issue raised by the Opposition was not allowed to be discussed. In fact, he allowed – even to the annoyance of the Treasury benches — more adjournment motions than did Speakers in the previous Lok Sabhas.

The expulsion from the CPI(M) was the “saddest day in my life,” he said.

The Speaker pointed out that he was “ready to resign” when National Democratic Alliance chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote to him suggesting he was partisan. “But the next day he came to my residence and told me he was wrong to make that allegation. I respect him for doing that,” Mr. Chatterjee said.

His view was that the painful decision taken by the 14th Lok Sabha to expel some members for taking bribes to ask questions, human trafficking and some other irregularities was necessary to uphold the dignity of the House. “No one voted against those expulsions,” he said.

Three “firsts”

There were three “firsts” in the Indian system — clearly not all laudable — the Lok Sabha was the only House in the world that had a dedicated television channel run by it; it was the only Parliament where MPs fixed and revised their own salaries; and only in India judges decided appointment of judges.

Over the years he had made it plain that he was in favour of a commission to decide the salaries of MPs and doing away with the current system of judges finalising appointment of judges.

Advani’s suggestion

The Speaker was asked about the suggestion made by Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani that the Constitution be amended to ensure that the Prime Minister came from the Lok Sabha — not from the Rajya Sabha.

Mr. Chatterjee said the suggestion “sounds theoretically good” but, in fact, the performance of a Prime Minister depended on his ability — which House he was a member of made little or no difference.