Kolkata: He was expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) three years ago, but former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee has appealed to voters to return the Left Front to power in the ongoing West Bengal assembly polls.
Chatterjee was the first signatory in a campaign leaflet distributed with Wednesday morning's newspapers in Bolpur town of Birbhum district Tuesday. The veteran leader, who represented Bolpur in the Lok Sabha for seven terms, signed it alongside 61 others, including his wife Renu.
Chatterjee confirmed that he had signed the leaflet. 'I am there as one of the signatories. My wife has also signed it.'
However, the lawyer-turned-politician refused to share any more details. 'Whatever I had to say I have said in the leaflet,' he said.
The one-and-a-half page leaflet, titled 'Give your verdict to form the eighth Left Front government for peace, stability and development' lavished praise on the ruling combine for the state's development.
It listed land reforms, greater irrigational facilities and soft agricultural loans among the successes of the 34-year-old Left Front government and also mentioned the development activities in improving roads, power and health facilities.
The other signatories to the leaflet included Supriya Tagore, a descendent of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, and former Visva-Bharati University head of the department of Bengali Somendranath Banerjee.
The appeal also mentioned that 15,000 such leaflets have been distributed in Bolpur town, which also houses the Visva Bharati University founded by Tagore.
Chatterjee was expelled from the CPI-M for presiding over the Lok Sabha trust vote in mid-2008 and defying the party diktat to resign from the post after it withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the India-US nuclear deal.
After the party cracked the whip, Chatterjee in his autobiography 'Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian' made a scathing attack on CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, calling him 'arrogant' and 'an intolerant man' and blaming his 'disastrous and misguided policies' for weakening the Left in the country after the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
However, speaking to IANS earlier this month, Chatterjee professed his love for the CPI-M.
'What do you think, whom should I love? I have retired from active politics. I am no longer a member of any Left party, any party for that matter... I have said it was the saddest day of my life...I was sad then, I am sad now also,' said the barrister-turned-politician.
Chatterjee had said he still stood by his decision of 2008 to preside over the Lok Sabha trust vote that led to his expulsion from the CPI-M. He, however, said he has never criticised the party, only some decisions of the leadership.
Last week, senior CPI-M minister Gautam Deb called up Chatterjee and requested him to address an election meeting in his constituency Dum Dum in North 24-Parganas district on April 24.
Deb claimed that Chatterjee had agreed to address the rally, provided his health condition was all right.
The Left Front, facing what is regarded as its toughest electoral challenge since coming to power in 1977, has fallen back on the old guard to brighten its prospects. Octogenarian Ashok Mitra, former state finance minister, addressed a seminar on Sunday.
The polls are being held from April 18-May 10.