Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee passed away on Monday morning in Kolkata hospital. He was 89 years old.
Political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi condole the demise of the veteran leader.
Describing him as a stalwart of Indian politics, the prime minister said, Chatterjee made Parliamentary democracy richer and was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable.
“Anguished by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and supporters,” Modi tweeted.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said in a tweet that “He was always affable and highlighted people’s problems. He firmly stood by the principles he believed in”.
Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “I mourn the passing away of Shri Somnath Chatterjee, 10 term MP and former speaker of the Lok Sabha” .
“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 said.
Mr. Chatterjee who was suffering from kidney ailment was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday.
He was put on ventilator support after he suffered a heart attack, but was “stable”, an official of a private hospital said on Sunday.
A 12-member team of doctors was keeping a constant watch on the veteran politician, the official said.
Last month, the former speaker had suffered a haemorrhagic stroke.
The leader was undergoing treatment from past 40 days. He was discharged from the hospital just for three days after his health showed signs of improvement. However, his condition deteriorated last Tuesday and he was hospitalised again.
A 10-time Lok Sabha MP, Chatterjee was a central committee member of the CPI(M), which he had joined in 1968. He was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009.
An outstanding parliamentarian, Somnath Chatterjee was the first communist in the country to don the role of a Speaker.
Conferred the “Outstanding Parliamentarian Award” in 1996, Chatterjee was known for his debating skills with extensive knowledge of national and international issues, delivered in his deep baritone voice, interspersed with wit and humour.
The veteran leader was expelled from the CPI(M) in 2008 for “seriously compromising the position of the party” when he refused to step down as the Speaker, a position which he believed was independent and unbiased.
After his party, then under the general secretaryship of Prakash Karat, withdrew support from the UPA government in July 2008, Chatterjee refused to step down from his position holding that the Speaker’s post is above any party politics.
Describing July 23, 2008 as “one of the saddest days of my life,” Chatterjee had said in a statement that, “The speaker of Lok Sabha, like the speakers of other elected assemblies, while acting as such does not and cannot represent any political party.”
Chatterjee was elected to the Lok Sabha 10 times on party ticket beginning in 1971 when he was elected as a CPI(M)-backed independent candidate to a seat in an interim election necessitated due to the death of his father.
He was defeated only once in 1984 by Mamata Banerjee, who incidentally came to limelight with this win.
He was born at Tezpur in Assam on July 25, 1929, to N C Chatterjee, who was once president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, and Binapani Debi and was educated in Kolkata and the United Kingdom.
(With PTI inputs)