I had met Somnath Chatterjee a long time ago. My grandfather, who was one of the founders of CPIM in Birbhum district and a freedom fighter who served time in the Andamans, had been admitted to hospital with serious complications and Somnath Chatterjee, who represented Bolpur in Birbhum district, had come to pay his respects. He had no posse or hangers-on around, even though he was a VIP and the CPIM’s main man in Delhi, and he carried lightly his importance.
Somnath Chatterjee, who passed away recently, was an old world politician in the true sense of the term. While I am sure he made compromises, as any politician does, and anyone who claims they dont is Kejriwalling, he was also one who stood by principles, and nowhere was this more heroically evident than his stance during the Indo-US nuclear deal. which led to his expulsion and subsequent humiliation by the brutish partisan stooges who call the shots in the CPM today, the Karats and the Yechurys. If there was any problem with Somnath Chatterjee was that he was too patrician, too gentle, and his brand of old-world oratory could be disrupted, as it was once, by a then-unknown rabble-rouser, who aided by a massive sympathy wave and her own ability to speak the tongue of the masses, handed Somnath Chatterjee his only defeat in a long career.
One Mamata Banerjee.