Kolkata: The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday paid homage to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, and former Leader of the Opposition in the state, Pankaj Banerjee.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who shared a cordial relationship with the three politicians, especially Vajpayee, is currently on an administrative tour to the districts and was not present in the Assembly.
Mamata Banerjee was the railway minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, State ministers Chandrima Bhattacharya, Firhad Hakim, and BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh were among those who paid homage to the departed leaders.
Ghosh recalled his first meeting with Vajpayee during a party rally in Mumbai and how the former PM had handled a situation with his wit.
Vajpayee passed away in August this year at the age of 93. He was the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete his five-year term.
Satgachia MLA Sonali Guha recollected meeting Somnath Chatterjee, a ten-time MP and former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, who too passed away in August. Guha described the meeting as an “experience of a lifetime”.
The veteran Marxist leader was expelled from the CPI(M) after he refused to quit the post of Speaker of the Lok Sabha following the party’s withdrawal of support to the then Manmohan Singh government over its plans to sign a nuclear deal with the US.
Hakim said that the passing away of the three leaders created a void that would be very difficult to fill.
Hakim also paid homage to Pankaj Banerjee and acknowledged his immense contribution to the Trinamool Congress.
Pankaj Banerjee, the former Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, was a founding member of the Trinamool Congress. He passed away in October this year.
After Trinamool Congress became the biggest opposition party in 2001, Banerjee became the Leader of the Opposition, a post he served till 2006. Banerjee, however, had announced his retirement from politics in 2006.