Following a heart attack on Sunday morning, Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha speaker, passed away today morning. He was on life support and was stable and undergoing dialysis. However, he could not recover and breathed his last on 13th August. He was suffering from a kidney-related ailment and was admitted to the hospital. He was earlier admitted to the hospital for 40 days and had suffered a haemorrhagic stroke.
Born on 25th July 1929 in Tezpur, Assam, he was educated in Kolkata as well as in Cambridge and was invited to the bar from the Middle Temple in London before he took up legal practice as an advocate in Calcutta High Court. While his father, Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee was one of the founders of the right-wing Hindu nationalist political party, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Somnath Chatterjee was a member of Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] from 1968 to 2008. He became a Member of Parliament in 1971 as an independent candidate supported by the CPI(M).
Chatterjee was re-elected nine times to the Lok Sabha except for the one time in 1984 when he lost to Mamata Banerjee, which she fought on the seat of Congress. From 1989 to 2004 he was the leader of CPI(M) in the Lok Sabha. Following the 2004 election, he was appointed pro tem speaker and eventually on 4th June 2004, he was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the Lower House.
Around mid-2008, CPI(M) withdrew its support from the first term of Congress-led UPA government, Chatterjee’s name was included in the list of MPs withdrawing support even though as a Speaker, Chatterjee had a non-partisan position in the House. During the no-confidence motion in July 2008, Chatterjee did not vote against the government, despite the party line, because voting against the government would mean voting in favour of the Opposition, then led by BJP-led NDA. However, Chatterjee was later expelled from CPI(M) for violation of party discipline.
Saddened by the expulsion, he announced in August 2008 that he would retire from politics from the 2009 general election onward.
Chatterjee is survived by his wife and three children, one son and two daughters.