A politician who built bridges across ideological divides

Having learnt his ropes from his father, a ‘moderate’ Hindu Sabha member, the former CPI(M) leader could never be a ‘diehard’ Communist
Born into a family of jurists and parliamentarians, the former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had learnt the ropes of politics from his father, Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a barrister, judge and parliamentarian. Nirmal Chandra, an influential non-Congress politician of his time, had been the president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha.
He was a Hindu nationalist and won his first Lok Sabha election in 1951-52 with the help of his friend, Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee. He briefly aligned with the centre-right Swatantra Party and even won the 1963 Lok Sabha election with the support of the Communist Party of India, thus maintaining a cordial relationship with all from extreme right to left. This was why the biographer of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, historian and American diplomat Craig Baxter described Nirmal Chandra as one with a “degree of moderation” among Mahasabhaites, usually considered staunch nationalists. In the process he made young Somnath realise that no one is untouchable in politics.
Somnath Chatterjee, who joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1968, owing to what he described as “an instruction” from Promode Dasgupta, the all-powerful State Secretary of Bengal CPI(M), maintained an equally warm relationship with all, including members of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Chatterjee was elected 10 times to the Lok Sabha – first from Burdwan (1971) and then twice from Jadavpur (1977, 1980). Between 1985 and 2004, he won seven times from Bolpur. He lost only once (in 1984 in Jadavpur to Mamata Banerjee). He often attributed his success in parliamentary politics to his mentor Jyoti Basu.
On Mr. Basu’s 102nd birth anniversary, he said: “Jyoti Babu [Basu] had told me to prove that only a Communist can conduct the affairs of a parliamentary democracy in the best possible manner, and I tried to do my best.” Mr. Chatterjee, however, went against his party’s wish and refused to resign from the post of Speaker before the special session on July 21. The party’s highest decision-making body, the Polit Bureau, headed by then general secretary Prakash Karat expelled him. Over the past few years, he tried his best to strengthen CPI(M)’s ties with the Congress, largely from backstage. He indicated that he was keen to get back into the CPI(M) arguing that he had a minor “misunderstanding” with the party and campaigned for its candidates in 2011 Assembly polls.
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/a-politician-who-built-bridges-across-ideological-barriers/article24684052.ece

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