It is unusual for the President of India to promote or take part in the promotion of government schemes anywhere in the country. But when it comes to the constituency of his son, the current President seems to have made an exception.
Over the weekend, President Pranab Mukherjee was in Jangipur, West Bengal, a Lok Sabha constituency represented by his son, Abhijeet Mukherjee. At an event at Jangipur House, Mukherjee distributed a LPG gas connection to recipient number 2.5 crore under the NDA government’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme, which offers free LPG connections to BPL families.
In 2004, Pranab Mukherjee became a Lok Sabha MP for the first time from Jangipur and was later replaced by his son Abhijeet Mukherjee in 2012, after he was elected President.
The President not only distributed LPG connections to 11 poor families but also hailed PM Narendra Modi for launching such a scheme. “The Prime Minister has taken good initiatives by connecting BPL families with LPG Gas,” said Mukherjee while addressing the gathering. His son and MP Abhijeet Mukherjee along with Minister of State for Petroleum, Dharmendra Pradhan, were also present at the event.
This was Mukherjee’s last visit to his home town as President and he profusely thanked the people. “I will not forget Jangipur. This area and its people helped remove my rootless wanderer stigma. I will come here regularly and try to serve its people,” he said in his speech.
Ujjwala is often viewed as the dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The scheme was launched on May 1, 2016, in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, with a target of distributing 5 crore free LPG connections to BPL families across the country.
What raised eyebrows at this event was whether or not the President can take part in such promotional activities of the government and that too in a constituency represented by his son.
Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to thank the President for the gesture. In his tweet, he said, “I thank Rashtrapati Ji for the special gesture of handing over LPG connections to beneficiaries in Jangipur, West Bengal.” Modi even congratulated his minister Dharmendra Pradhan for working hard to make the scheme a success.
This is not the first time a President has been involved in a public event linked to his or her family. In December 2011, then President Pratibha Patil inaugurated a flyover in Kondhali near Amravti. Her son, Rajendra Shekhawat, was the Congress MLA from Amravati at the time. The inauguration of the flyover was included in the President’s itinerary at Shekhawat’s insistence, it had been reported then.
Occurring just before the municipal elections due in February 2012, it was seen as an attempt by the then President to promote her son. State BJP leaders had raised questions on using the President’s name to gain mileage for her son. Congress went on to win 25 seats out of 87 in Amravati Municipal Corporation, becoming the single largest party.
However, some experts see nothing wrong in presidents attending such events.
“This is too trivial an issue to talk in the context of President Mukherjee,” said former attorney general and noted legal expert Soli Sorabjee.
Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan agrees.
“President Mukherjee can take part in such events and there is nothing wrong in that. Being a politician, he knows his constitutional responsibilities and duties,” Bhushan said. “He was there at the GST event in parliament too.”
Mukherjee’s term ends on 24 July. The voting for presidential elections concluded at 5 PM Monday.