Former LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee dead

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Kolkata, Aug 13 (IANS) Former Lok Sabha Speaker and eminent barrister Somnath Chatterjee died here on Monday at a private clinic following a cardiac arrest and prolonged old-age-related illness, nursing home sources said.

He was 89, and leaves behind his wife, a daughter and a son.

“He died at 8.15 a.m.,” Bellevue Clinic CEO Pradip Tondon told IANS.

Chatterjee’s condition turned grave following a heart attack he suffered on Sunday. On August 7, he was admitted to the clinic in a critical condition due to a kidney-related ailment and put on ventilator support.

A former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and a 10-time Lok Sabha MP, Chatterjee was the Speaker of the lower House during the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA-1) rule from 2004 to 2009.

It was during his stint that the Lok Sabha television channel came into existence in 2006.

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Known for his debating skills, Chatterjee was given the “Outstanding Parliamentarian Award” in 1996.

Chatterjee joined the CPI-M in 1968, and was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 from Burdwan constituency in a by-election as an independent candidate backed by the CPI-M.

The seat had fallen vacant after the death of his father Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a Hindu revivalist and one of the founders and one-time president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.

He made it to the Lok Sabha on a CPI-M ticket from Jadavpur in 1977 and 1980, but lost to Mamata Banerjee — the present West Bengal Chief Minister and then a youth Congress leader — in 1984.

However, the very next year, he re-entered the Lok Sabha after the party nominated him as its candidate from Bolpur in a by-election. He retained the seat in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. From 1989 till 2004, he served as the Leader of the CPI(M) in Lok Sabha.

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Chattterjee rose to become a central committee member of the Left party, but was expelled on July 23, 2008, “for seriously compromising the position of the party” as he refused to resign as the Speaker after the CPI-M withdrew its support to the UPA-1 government over the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal.

Born on July 25, 1929 in Tezpur in Assam, Chatterjee studied at the Mitra Institution School, Presidency College and the University of Calcutta.

He then proceeded to England to earn B.A and M.A degrees in Law from the Jesus College, Cambridge. He was called to the bar from London’s Middle Temple and started legal practice as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court.

Chatterjee was a close confidant of former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who prodded him to take over as chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) to bring the must-needed investment in the state.

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He toured various countries, inking memorandum of understandings worth thousands of crores, but very few of the pacts materialised as industrial projects on the ground.

A keen sports enthusiast, Chatterjee also headed the West Bengal Table Tennis Association for four years, till he stepped down in May citing his poor health.

He was also a former working committee member of the Cricket Association of Bengal.



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