I am still a Marxist and will campaign for Left, says Somnath

Putting behind the bitterness over his expulsion from CPI(M), at least for now, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee plans to campaign for the party in the Assembly elections as he still feels he is a Marxist.

He attacks Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee charging it with "harping on change" but not giving any clarification on what their agenda was.

Coming out to bat for his former party at an election meeting tomorrow, Chatterjee's gesture to his former party comes even as CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has said that leaders like Chatterjee and noted economist Dr Ashok Mitra were "welcome" to campaign for the Left parties in West Bengal.

In an interview to PTI here, Chatterjee said, "I have just agreed to attend a meeting at the request of (Bengal housing minister) Gautam Deb. He had approached me to speak for him before the people and I accepted his invitation.

"If you call it campaigning, then yes I am campaigning. I have done it on individual capacity. There is one meeting on 24th, if health permits I will attend it".

The 82-year old veteran Parliamentarian said he had signed "4-5 appeals to people asking them to vote for Left Front candidates. They wanted my support and I gave them".

Maintaining that he was away from politics "on my own volition", he asserted "I am a still Marxist".

"I never differed with the Marxist ideology. I still stand by what I believe in and have believed over the years. I never change my stand like the others. I have not changed parties nor sides. But, yes I had a problem with a section of the CPI(M) and I have said it earlier, but as far as my ideology goes, I am still a Marxist".

Chatterjee was expelled from CPI(M) in July 2008 as he did not follow the party line to vote against the government in the crucial confidence vote on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal, as he felt that voting against the UPA coalition would mean voting alongside the right-wing opposition BJP.

Asked about the opinion polls which have portrayed the Left Front's chances as bleak, he said, "The people of Bengal were aware of their rights. You cannot fool them. The votes will show the final result".

Exuding confidence that Left would return to power, he said, "At least, we have some ideology to fight for, some agenda. What have they (Trinamool Congress) got? Can you tell me what their agenda is? You think people don't understand all this. They are harping on change, change. But how? Have they said how? And what for?"

When pointed out that Trinamool was talking ofindustrialisation, development and that investors were waiting to invest in Bengal if the new rule comes, Chatterjee said, "Nonsense. Everyone knows how such an important project (Tata's Nano) was driven out of Bengal. Who is she trying to fool? They have no agenda".

On being asked if his campaigning for Left candidates which has got the support of senior CPI(M) leaders signalled a comeback for him, he said he has "not applied his mind".

"I am not well and am enjoying my retirement here in this reserved forest. It is not that I did not have offers. I did have option to join other parties. I was also offered some assignments. But I did not accept them. I have not applied my mind to it. Right now I am engaged in other kind of work like development of the adivasis in this area. I am connected with a girls' college here," he said.

Chatterjee also applauded Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for her work, saying though it would be "unfair for me to comment on her work. But yes, she is doing a commendable job as the Speaker. It is not an easy job, but she is doing it well".

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