Nation grieves for Somnath Chatterjee

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Kolkata, Aug 13 : President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday led the nation in paying glowing tributes to former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, one of the country’s most respected parliamentarians who died here in the morning.

Calling him “a veteran parliamentarian who had a forceful presence in the House”, the President tweeted: “A loss for public life in Bengal and India. My condolences to his family and innumerable well-wishers.”

Modi described Chatterjee, a 10-time MP, as a stalwart of Indian politics who made parliamentary democracy richer.

He said that Chatterjee “was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Anguished by his demise”.

ArrayCongress President Rahul Gandhi hailed him as “an institution”.

“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 tweeted.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who came to prominence incidentally with her triumph over Chatterjee in the Lok Sabha polls from Jadavpur consituency in 1984, termed it a great loss.

“Saddened at the passing away of Somnath Da. My condolences to his family and admirers. This is a great loss for us,” the Trinamool Congress chief tweeted.

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said he was “extremely sad” over his death and remembered him as “one of the greatest parliamentarians of contemporary times. He will always be missed”.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said: “A stalwart parliamentarian, popular amongst people and one of greatest Speakers of Lok Sabha. A huge loss to the Indian democracy.”

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also paid homage to Chatterjee.

In Kolkata, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Biman Bose said Chatterjee always used to talk in favour of the masses. “He was a distinguished, big hearted and highly respectable parliamentarian.

“Somnath Da’s demise is a colossal loss to parliamentary politics… We were in touch with him despite not being a party member. So his demise is also a loss to revolution of the poor,” Bose told the media.

CPI-M state Secretary Surya Kanta Mishra added: “He used to raise voice whenever democracy and secularism were attacked. He attended meetings and programmes to support for democracy even after his retirement from active politics.”

Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy pointed out that it was under Chatterjee’s watch that the Zero Hour was telecast live from July 5, 2004. A 24-hour Lok Sabha television channel also came into being in 2006.

“In Indian politics, he is a colossus. We all know that between 2004 to 2009, Somnath Chatterjee had done exceedingly well as Speaker of the Lok Sabha,” Roy said.