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Pranab briefs Basu on rift

Marcus Dam

Somnath also visits the Marxist leader

“Moral duty” to explain: Pranab

“We hold him in the highest regard”

KOLKATA: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Sunday separately called on veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu at his residence here.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also visited Mr. Basu.

Mr. Mukherjee’s visit was to “explain” to Mr. Basu the reasons behind the collapse of the United Progressive Alliance-Left coalition and that of Mr. Chatterjee was understood to be related to his future as Speaker though he did not comment on what transpired at the meeting.

“Leave it to me”

On whether he had taken any decision on resigning from his post, Mr. Chatterjee told The Hindu over phone ahead of the meeting: “Let me see…I am still the Speaker...Leave it to me please.”

His visit, which raised questions whether such a move is imminent, came a day after Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat reportedly said the party had not taken a decision to ask Mr. Chatterjee to quit office.

Mr. Mukherjee told newspersons outside Mr. Basu’s residence that it was his “moral duty” to explain to Mr. Basu why the coalition could not run.

“We consider Jyoti Basu, along with Harkishan Singh Surjeet [former general secretary of the CPI(M)], the architects of the Left’s coalition with the UPA,” he said.

“I was here to explain to him why we could not run the coalition government or the coalition. He told me earlier that as the leader of the UPA in the Lok Sabha I was to try to ensure that the coalition works,” the Minister said.

The other reason for visiting Mr. Basu was to wish him on his stepping into his 95th year on July 8.

Mr. Basu had made a “huge contribution” to national politics. “Though there is no similarity in our political views, we hold him in the highest regard for his enormous contribution to national politics,” he added.

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