The Left parties on Monday, reacted sharply to Somnath Chatterjee's dubbing their withdrawal of support to the government as a "mistake", with the Communist Party of India-Marxist even alleging that his support to the Congress-led coalition and continuation as the Speaker were "inter-connected".
"By admitting his pro-Congress stand, Chatterjee has exposed the moral high ground he took that the Speaker is above party politics," CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said in a strongly worded reaction. "His support to the Congress-led government and his continuance as the Speaker are inter-connected," Karat, under whose leadership the CPI-M had asked Chatterjee to quit the high office last year, told PTI.
Karat's comment came a day after Chatterjee said he had sent a note to the CPI-M asking them not to withdraw support but continue opposing the nuclear deal. Chatterjee was expelled from CPI-M after he refused to step down following Left's withdrawal of support. Asserting that his party does not agree with him on the issue, CPI Secretary D Raja asked "why should the Speaker comment on the stand taken by political parties? His role became a flash-point during the debate on the confidence vote. His position has been untenable and contradictory, exposing his pro-government politics," Raja said.
Raja said the nuclear issue was the "last straw on the camel's back" as the Left had been opposing various macro- level policies of the United Progressive Alliance, including its neo-liberal economic policies. "It is not secularism alone but also the issues of hunger, poverty and employment. That is why we don't agree with Chatterjee," the CPI leader said.
Reacting to Chatterjee's statement, Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas said it was his own point of view. "We had clearly stated that if the nuclear deal was signed, we will withdraw support. "This was because the Congress-led UPA was going ahead with undermining our independent foreign policy by forging a strategic military alliance with the US, with our support. This could not continue," he said. Biswas said "we still hold that the Left parties have taken the correct stand and that is why we are campaigning for scrapping the deal and the strategic alliance with the US."
Revolutionary Socialist Party general secretary T J Chandrachoodan said Chatterjee "wanted the government to survive at any cost. No one will take into account an individual's advice who is against the party line". On his writing a note to the CPI-M on the issue, Chandrachoodan said "as a Speaker, he should not have done that (advising CPI-M). In what capacity did he advise the CPI(M)?"
"In my opinion, as a Speaker, he should not have taken a stand, he should have maintained neutrality. He became partial by acting in favour of the government. He wanted the government to continue at any cost," Chandrachoodan said. Senior RSP leader Abani Roy said with the latest statement, Chatterjee has "made it clear that he is not independent and was leaning towards some other politics."
Chatterjee, in an interview, had said he had cautioned the Left parties against withdrawing support and told them, "don't withdraw because you are only encouraging certain forces in the country which we have all been fighting against," a clear reference to BJP and its allies.