Kolkata, Aug 13 (IANS) President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday led the nation in paying glowing tributes to former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, one of the country’s most respected parliamentarians, who died here in the morning.
Calling him “a veteran parliamentarian who had a forceful presence in the House”, the President tweeted: “A loss for public life in Bengal and India. My condolences to his family and innumerable well-wishers.”
Modi described Chatterjee, a 10-time MP, as a stalwart of Indian politics who made parliamentary democracy richer.
He said that Chatterjee “was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Anguished by his demise”.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi hailed him as “an institution”.
“He was an institution. Greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians, across party lines. My condolences to his family at this time of grief,” he tweeted.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who came to prominence incidentally with her triumph over Chatterjee in the Lok Sabha polls from Jadavpur consituency in 1984, termed it a great loss.
“Saddened at the passing away of Somnath Da. My condolences to his family and admirers. This is a great loss for us,” the Trinamool Congress chief tweeted.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said he was “extremely sad” over his death and remembered him as “one of the greatest parliamentarians of contemporary times. He will always be missed”.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said: “A stalwart parliamentarian, popular amongst people and one of greatest Speakers of Lok Sabha. A huge loss to the Indian democracy.”
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also paid homage to Chatterjee.
Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy described the veteran parliamentarian as a towering figure in Indian politics.
“Somnathda was known for stirring parliament speeches, which motivated a generation of Indians. We lost a conscientious leader who fought for social justice and harmony. May his soul rest in peace,” tweeted Kumaraswamy.
In Chennai, Tamil Nadu leaders also condoled his death. Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said Chatterjee expertly presided over the Lok Sabha.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss said Chatterjee was a man of impeccable integrity and earned the respect and friendship of all party leaders.
DMK leader M.K. Stalin said Chatterjee was a good friend of his late father and DMK President M. Karunanidhi.
Maharashtra Chief Minster Devendra Fadnavis also mourned the death, saying the country lost “a tall and influential Communist leader”.
“A universally respected person, his long career in parliamentary politics served to inspire and guide the leaders and workers alike. His role as the Lok Sabha Speaker will always be remembered for the way he upheld the Constitution and democratic norms,” he said.
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said he was “deeply saddened”.
Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar described Chatterjee as “a dignified person who set high standards of conduct during his stint as Lok Sabha Speaker”.
In Kolkata, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Biman Bose said Chatterjee always used to talk in favour of the masses. “Somnath Da’s demise is a colossal loss to parliamentary politics…He used to always think of the masses,” Bose told the media.
CPI-M state Secretary Surya Kanta Mishra added: “He attended meetings and programmes in support for democracy even after his retirement from active politics.”