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KOLKATA: Former West Bengal Assembly Speaker and CPI-M veteran Hashim Abdul Halim died on Monday after a cardiac arrest at a city nursing home, his family members said.
He was 80 and is survived by wife, two sons and a daughter. West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury condoled the death of Halim who had the distinction of being the longest-serving Speaker in the country. Halim held the Speaker’s post in the state Assembly from 1982 to 2011 during the Left Front rule He had been suffering from cardiac problems for the last few years.
Halim complained of chest pain after returning from a morning walk and was immediately shifted to a nursing home where he breathed his last at 10.10 am, his son Fuad said. West Bengal governor K N Tripathi in his condolence message recalled his long association with him. “I am deeply grieved to learn about the sad demise of Hasim Abdul Halim, a leader of the democratic movement and former Speaker of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. He was my friend, having worked together in several commonwealth parliamentary Association conferences. His death is a personal loss to me,” Tripathi said.
Leaders cutting across political lines condoled Halim’s death and remembered him as a gentleman whose death, they said, created a vacuum in parliamentary democracy. Present West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee also paid his condolence to the veteran. Halim had also served as the chairman of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and president of World Federation of United Nations Association.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury in a series of tweets said, “Lal Salaam…Comrade Hasim Abdul Halim. Served longest as Speaker of West Bengal Assembly. Remained strong pillar of support in maintaining communal harmony.” In another tweet, Yechury said, “Steered with statesmanship, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as Chairman of its executive committee.”
Senior Congress leader Manas Bhunia said Halim had created an example of how a speaker should perform rising above the party line. Halim was elected as a CPI-M MLA for the first time in 1977, when the CPI(M) led Left Front came to power. He was elected to the state Assembly for seven consecutive terms till 2011. He also served as Judicial Affairs minister from 1977 to 1982, the year when he was elected the Speaker.
His body was laid to rest on Tuesday. Thousands of people cutting across political lineage paid their last respects to Halim in the state Assembly building. Many fondly remembered how Halim reached out to people from all walk of life during his long stint as Speaker.