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Karat defends Somnath’s expulsion

“Continuing as Speaker is his decision ... to have him as party member or not is ours”

HYDERABAD: Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat on Thursday defended the expulsion of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, saying it was the party’s prerogative to decide whether or not he would continue as a member.

“It is for him to decide whether he should continue as Speaker. But to continue him as a party member or not, it is a decision we can take,” he said. At the same time, he said that initiating disciplinary action against a senior leader like Mr. Chatterjee was “unfortunate” and “not a happy thing.”

The decision was taken by the CPI(M) Polit Bureau after the party Central Committee expressed the view that Mr. Chatterjee should not continue as Speaker following the party’s withdrawal of support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. It communicated its decision to withdraw support to the UPA and asked him to step down, but he did not agree.

Mr. Karat told journalists here that the party leadership did nothing that interfered with Mr. Chatterjee’s role as Speaker and it only “exercised disciplinary machinery regarding a member of the party.”

Any member against whom action was taken could appeal to the party’s Central Control Commission, he said.

Mr. Karat objected to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks that the CPI(M) was “misleading” the other Left parties, and said it was Dr. Singh who misled the country on the nuclear deal.” The government won the trust vote, but in doing so “they have exposed themselves to serious charges of bribery, intimidation and horse-trading.”

“It is a sad day for parliamentary democracy. Every member of the Opposition, except those of the Left parties, was approached by emissaries and agents of the coalition,” he said.

Make tapes public

Describing the placing of bundles of money in the House on Tuesday as a “disturbing scene,” he demanded that the tapes mailed by a television channel to the Speaker be made public.

There was no reason why the tapes should not be telecast considering that it was a matter of serious public concern. “People should know whether the charges made by the three [BJP] MPs were correct and whether there was prima facie ground for launching proceedings,” he said.

On the meeting of the Left with the BSP and other parties, he said it was decided to launch a nationwide campaign against the government’s failure to not only control price rise and inflation but also address the agrarian crisis and farmers’ problems.

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