Somnath’s family rebuffs CPI-M request to drape body in red flag

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Kolkata, Aug 13 (IANS) Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s family on Monday turned down the CPI-M leadership’s request to drape the expelled member’s body in a red flag and allow him to be taken to the party’s West Bengal headquarters here and even barred one of the leaders from entering his house.

“The party had requested us that they want to take the body to the state headquarters for partymen to pay their respects. But we said, we don’t want. The party had requested that they wanted to drape the body in red flag. We refused,” Chatterjee’s daughter Anushila Basu said.

Chatterjee, a 10-time Lok Sabha member — nine times as CPI-M candidate and once as an independent backed by the party — was expelled in July 2008 for refusing to resign as the Lok Sabha Speaker after the party withdrew support to the UPA-1 government protesting against the India-US civil nuclear deal.

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Chatterjee died at a Kolkata nursing home on Monday, aged 89.

West Bengal Left Front Chairman and Communist Party of India-Marxist stalwart Biman Bose, who went to Chatterjee’s South Kolkata residence to pay his homage, was red faced after Chatterjee’s son Pratap Chatterjee asked him: “Why have you come here?”

Chatterjee told the security personnel that Bose was unwelcome.

Bose left but returned in the evening with CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. But Chatterjee again asked him to leave.

Speaking to the media later, Chatterjee accused Bose of having “insulted and said bad things” about his father after his expulsion.

Anushila recalled that she had seen her father shed tears the day the CPI-M expelled him.

“I was in Delhi then. I told my father that from now on you are a free bird. My father asked me whether he has been show caused? I told him the truth… After some time, I went to see him at his chamber. I found him sitting … with tears rolling down his eyes,” she said.

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Anushila said neither Chatterjee nor any other family member could accept the harsh decision.

However, she said Chatterjee to the last had a deep love for the CPI-M.

“We often tried to provoke him to speak against the party. But he never uttered a word against the party. So deep was his fondness.

“The divorce was only on pen and paper. But mentally, he was not divorced from the party,” she said.

Anushila said a number of other parties and others had come to his father with many lucrative offers. “But his answer was always the same – No.”

As per the CPI-M constitution, an expelled member has to apply for re-entry into the party. Feelers were sent to Chatterjee in that regard but he refused to apply on his own. But Chatterjee let it be known that he would be game if the party on its own took him back.

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