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Workaholic Pranab has little time for family

Jul 22, 2012 09:40 AM IST Politics Politics

New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee, who looks all set to be the next President of India, has donned many hats - the Finance Minister, Home Minister, the government's key troubleshooter. As he gets ready for his biggest appointment yet, here's a look at a side of 'dada' that's never been seen before.

Pranab Mukherjee is an indulgent grandfather and a loving husband and father. But does a man who works 18 hours a day really have time for a family life? Not really, says his 42-year-old dancer daughter Sharmishta.

Sharmishta Mukherjee says, "He has never been expressive, never did puchu puchu. There was alway a degree of formality with him. His unsaid code of conduct created many problems when I was growing up as I was allowed no late night parties, or use his official position. He has hardly been able to spend time with family, he's not been there for idle gossip or holidaying, but he has always been there when you needed him."

Pranab da's 50-year-old son Avijit, who quit his job at the Steel Authority of India in 2011 to join politics, says he can't remember the last time his father took a holiday.

"Last I think we went for a family picnic in 1996. Whenever I plan something with him, work comes up and he cancels. So for the last couple of years I have stopped planning altogether," Avijit said.

The only time the Mukherjee family gets together is when Pranab babu swaps his bandhgala for a dhoti and makes his annual visit to his village for the poojas. His daughter-in-law Chitralekha says he takes official calls there as well.

"He is not a family man, the country comes before the family," Chitralekha says.

So are the Mukherjees looking forward to moving into Delhi's most prestigious address?

Chitralekha says, "No, no I don't want to move. I'm happy here."

His daughter Sharmishta adds, "I love my space, guard my privacy fiercely, that may be difficult in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, let's see."

Another Mukherjee who won't be moving into the Rashtrapati Bhawan is Pranab da's 86-year-old sister Annapoorna. She'll watch her little brother being sworn in as the 13th President of India on TV and insists she knew this day would come.

"When he had first become MP, I had gone to Delhi. We were having tea when we saw the Rashtrapati's ceremonial horses. Pranab said even I want to be the Rashtrapati's horse, they are so well groomed. I said why horse, you will one day become Rashtrapati. So many bhai dooj I have spent crying because he was not there, now it is all worth it," Annapoorna says.

But is the family a bit disappointed that the perpetual Prime Minister in waiting ended up as President?

"I am more happy he became the President and not the PM. He has been working relentlessly for 18 hours a day, he has shouldered responsibilities all his life. Being PM would mean more responsibilities and as a daughter I wouldn't want that," Sharmishta says.

When Pranab Mukherjee walks into the Rashtrapati Bhawan, with its 360 rooms, he will do so with a fairly small family contingent - his 73-year-old wife Surva and possibly his daughter Sharmishta. The rest of the family say they don't intend to move, they'll just be happy if their baba has a little more time to spend with them.