Stop speaking, Speaker!

via News Today editorial published on July 16, 2008


The ‘Speaker’ of the Lok Sabha is directly elected by the Members of Parliament as the ‘Presiding Officer’. The Speaker is one of the prime functionaries in the Indian system of Parliament as per the Constitution of India. The useful functioning of Parliament largely depends on the efficiency of the Speaker.


When Somnath Chatterjee of the CPI-M was unanimously elected as Speaker of the Fourteenth Lok Sabha in June 2004, he had said, ‘I do not have words adequately to express my feelings for the great honour bestowed on me and I accept the same with all humility and gratitude’. Now, he is in a dilemma on whether to resign or not, as the Prime Minister would be moving a Confidence Motion on 22 July, due to the withdrawal of support by the Left Front to which the Speaker originally belongs.


The Left front, which withdrew support, is determined to defeat the government on the floor of the House and hence it has asked the Speaker to resign from his post, so that, he would be able to cast his vote against the government.

Though the BJP is also against the government, the ‘secular’ Left is not shy of voting along with the ‘communal’ BJP and has even started coordinating with the ‘communal’ party on floor proceedings. But, for the Speaker, who happens to be a son of a stalwart of the ‘Hindu Maha Sabha’, voting along with the ‘Hindu’ BJP is a ‘ sin’ on ‘secularism’.

Somnath Chatterjee was not happy about his party including his name in the list, which they have submitted to the President along with the letter of withdrawal. Though initially he agreed to resign on the advice of veteran Marxist Jyothi Basu, he has changed his stance and created ripples in the CPI-M circles by expressing his unwillingness to quit.

It can be recalled that Jyothi Basu had earlier suggested the party not to pull down the government, which in his opinion will provide an advantage to the ‘communal’ forces like BJP. Now, the Speaker under the same pretext has not agreed to resign. However, it is also reported that his unwillingness is mainly because of his commitment of not standing in elections in future and his desire to complete the full term of his office.

It seems he doesn’t want to be in a delicate and ugly situation of losing his post and the government winning the trust vote. Somnath Chatterjee, who feels so bad about voting along with BJP, has exhibited his ‘secular’ credentials throughout his career by supporting anything for minorities and denouncing everything for the majority community. As he has openly talked against the party diktat a few times in the past, it is not a surprise that he is unrelenting now.

Now since the UPA government is in a precarious situation and is not so confident of winning the trust vote leading to its indulgence in ‘horse-trading’, the Speaker, who has an open contempt for the BJP, doesn’t want to vote against the government. While the CPI-M is taken aback by his adamancy, the BJP has demanded his resignation. A look back at the last four years of the Speaker’s functioning will give a succinct picture that he has been biased against the opposition and it can be recalled that the NDA had even contemplated to move ‘no confidence motion’ against him twice.

Though he waxes eloquent on the behaviour and discipline of the members now, he has played leading roles in disruption of proceedings many times during the NDA regime when he was in the opposition. During the last four years, whenever the House witnessed commotion, he has offered to resign at the drop of a hat, but now when it is really needed, he refrains from it.

It is a fact that there is no Constitutional obligation for him to resign, but had he refused on the grounds of propriety of self, morality of office and neutrality of politics, the nation would have saluted him. Instead he gives a silly reason that he doesn’t want to ‘vote’ along with a ‘communal’ BJP, exposing his own ‘communal’ mind set.

Moreover, as he had decided not to contest elections in future, he must have resigned from his party immediately after his election as the Speaker, which he has not done. Having said that he has accepted his ‘unanimous’ election as the Speaker with all humility and gratitude, he must have lived up to it. But, sadly he has not, and even now it is not late for him. He must act!


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