The son inherited the father’s legacy. But in a private moment, sources say, late President Pranab Mukherjee told his close associates that his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee should have been in Parliament.
And now Abhijit Mukherjee has quit the party that his father had supported as a troubleshooter and joined the Trinamool Congress. In a statement, the TMC said, “Many Congress leaders believe that Mamata Banerjee can stop the BJP." Sharmistha responded to the development with a cryptic tweet: “Sad".
Abhijit Mukherjee was chosen as Pranab’s successor from the Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency when the veteran Congress leader entered Rashtrapati Bhawan. He was also appointed chairman of the campaign committee for the Congress in the Bengal polls where the party scored a zero. Abhijit was chosen over Sharmistha as it was felt that only one person should become involved in the state polls from the family and also because he had been an MP from the state.
Relations between the brother and sister had always been strained. Feisty, with a mind of her own, it was Sharmistha who was always seen by the side of her father when he was the President of India. In fact, he made Sharmistha the custodian of the diaries that he left behind, with many interesting secrets, and gave her the complete right to publish them whenever she deemed fit. Sharmistha contested the assembly elections from Delhi and, of course, while she lost, she always wanted to spend more time with her father.
The strained relations between the siblings first came to light when Sharmistha criticised Abhijit publicly for referring to women as “dented-painted" in an infamous statement. It became more open when Abhijit objected to the memoirs of Pranab Mukherjee being published after his death and Sharmistha attacked him on Twitter for it. The two have never spoken since then. While Abhijit has been in the political wilderness and joining the TMC gives him some relevance, for Trinamool, he cannot bring much to the table.
It is clear that the TMC wants to use a Congress leader to hit back at the party because it is upset with it for tying up with the Left in the April-May Bengal elections. But all eyes will now be on Sharmistha Mukherjee: she has asked for some time off as she is still recovering from her father’s death. Her political future is uncertain but it’s quite possible that she may now be used extensively to take on the BJP.
Pranab Mukherjee had an uneasy relationship with Mamata Banerjee. He had won his first Lok Sabha election, it is believed, because of his proximity to the Left parties. And Mamata never forgave him for this even when she was part of the UPA; she often complained that Pranab Mukherjee favoured the Left over her. In fact, when Mukherjee was to contest for the post of President, she had announced her opposition and had joined forces with Mulayam Singh Yadav to bat for Dr Manmohan Singh. It was only when the Bengali card was played that, in yet another U-turn, she decided to support Pranab. Relations between the two became cordial but the distance and unease always remained. Mamata Banerjee has had very good equations with Sonia Gandhi and, therefore, the feud with Pranab didn’t go too far. Now, after his death, his son joining the very party that he always had an uneasy relationship with is exactly what politics is all about. It’s now over to the daughter.