Former president Pranab Mukherjee’s death has brought out in the open what his life had kept a lid on. The uneasy relationship between his two children -- Sharmishtha Mukherjee and Abhijit Mukherjee – both of whom are in politics.
The current issue between the siblings is the upcoming release of the ‘Presidential Years’, the last book of the former president which has already created a flutter.
In the book, the late Congress veteran had made scathing references to both former prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Abhijit has now written to the publishers asking them not to release the book till he went through it and accused it of being malicious. He tweeted, “I, the son of the author of the Memoir " The Presidential Memoirs " request you to kindly stop the publication of the memoir as well as motivated excerpts which is already floating in certain media platforms without my written consent”.
Soon after, his sister hit back. “I daughter of the author of the memoir ‘The Presidential Years’, request my brother @ABHIJIT_LS not to create any unnecessary hurdles in publication of the last book written by our father. He completed the manuscript before he fell sick." The public spat is also being seen as a fight for the legacy of Pranab Mukherjee.
Going by norms, a son may be seen as the inheritor of a parent’s legacy, but it is an open fact that the former president was closer to his daughter and considered her a true inheritor.
She was always by his side when he travelled abroad as president, assisted him and also has a diary of the former president which has some explosive facts. He has left it behind with her leaving it to her to reveal the details if she deemed fit. Sharmistha lived with the former president in his official residence in his years after retirement as president.
However, when it came to contesting from Pranab Mukherjee’s constituency Jangipur, it was the son who was chosen and not the daughter. This had not, however, diminished her importance as those who wanted to contact the late Congress veteran knew she was the person to reach.
In the last few days of Pranab Mukherjee and after his death, it was noticed that Abhijit became proactive. From announcing his father’s death to receiving official condolence to visiting Mirati, the ancestral home during Durga Puja, Abhijit took many by surprise.
An observer of the family said, “This was surprising for us because we know that during the times that Pranab Mukherjee was ill, it was Sharmistha who looked after him. Also, because the father was more comfortable with the daughter and the fact that the son was busy with his work and family.”
Earlier too, the siblings have had public spats. In 2012, Abhijit had derided protests over rape by saying it was being done by “dented painted women”. Sharmistha had hit back saying she apologised on his behalf and that “as a family we don’t accept these remarks “
At that time too, the hint was there that the two never got along. But as long as Pranab Mukherjee was alive, the sibling fights were kept under wraps as the firefighter for the Congress never wanted his family fights to be in the news.
However, with the passing away of the veteran politician, there is a political vacuum. While both have so far stayed away from elections in Bengal, Sharmistha has excused herself from any party posts, sources say Abhijit is game. And, the fight to protect his father’s honour is what many say Abhijit wants to use to try and fit into his father’s enormous shoes.