Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee family on Monday rejected a proposal by the CPI (M) to drape his body in the party flag and take it to the state party headquarters in Kolkata’s Alimuddin Street for people to pay their last respects.
The rejection mirrored the anguish that the 10-time MP suffered after his expulsion by the party in 2008 over his refusal to step down from the Speaker’s post despite a politburo diktat.
Instead of the CPI (M) flag, the flag of Mohun Bagan, India’s oldest football club of which he was a member for about half a century, was placed on his body in his south Kolkata residence.
In deference to his wish, Chatterjee’s body was donated to SSKM Hospital.
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Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan who was in Kolkata to pay her respects, turned emotional. “He was like an elder brother and his guidance helped me a lot to grow as a Parliamentarian. When I became the Speaker, the first call that I received was from him,” Mahajan said with tears in her eyes.
The veteran Parliamentarian’s body was taken from Belle Vue Clinic to Calcutta High Court and then to the state Assembly before the hearse moved to his house in south Kolkata.At all the three venues where his body was kept, a steady stream of visitors – including judges and lawyers at high court, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her ministers in the Assembly and BJP leaders and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and other CPI(M) leaders at his residence – paid their respects to Chatterjee.
He was also given a gun salute.
His daughter Anushila Basu recalled seeing her father in tears after he was expelled from the party with which he was associated for four decades.
“I told him that he is a free bird now. He was then sitting in his antechamber with tears in his eyes. But he was mentally associated with the party till his last day,” Basu told the media.
She also revealed that after his expulsion, many political parties approached him with offers. “He only offered a firm ‘no’,