Thursday, 30 June, 2022
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Speaking with the political enemy: 24 hours in the life of Pranab Mukherjee and daughter

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As Sharmistha Mukherjee berates her father, Pranab Mukherjee readies to speak at RSS HQ where Bhagwat invited him a year ago.

A father and his daughter have been in the eye of a political storm in the last 24 hours.

The daughter charged her father with inadvertently damaging the party that he devoted most of his life to. The father, former President Pranab Mukherjee, a long-time Congress leader, has maintained a studied silence, hoping he will let his talking do the reassuring. He is scheduled to deliver his speech at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur later this evening.

Sharmistha, a classical dancer and president of the Delhi Mahila Congress, seemed heartbroken on Twitter late Wednesday evening, soon after her father landed in Nagpur to participate in the concluding ceremonies of the RSS’ tritiya-varsh (third-year) training programmes.

She indicated that she had been asked by her party to clarify her position. It was not a pretty sight.

Pranab remained ensconced at Raj Bhavan in Nagpur all evening, going over his notes and reading his papers. His aides were tight-lipped about the contents of his speech.

It was just over a year ago, on 16 June, 2017, that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat came to meet Pranab Mukherjee, the President at the time, for lunch at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was accompanied by RSS joint general secretary (or sah sarkaryawah) Krishna Gopal and two other Sangh leaders.

The food served was all vegetarian. Conversations around ‘rashtravaad’, or nationalism, were interspersed with the meal.

Mukherjee was demitting office a month later, in July 2017, and there was much speculation about the purpose of Bhagwat’s visit. But the two had met twice before, including at a Diwali function in Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2015.

Soon after the meal was served, Bhagwat told Mukherjee he had come to invite him to deliver the concluding speech at the RSS’ third-year training programme.

But Pranab Mukherjee turned him down, saying that it would not be appropriate for him to attend such a function in his capacity as President.

The invitations continued even after Mukherjee returned to being an ordinary citizen. At the end of a long year, the RSS’ persistence paid off.

In Congress circles in Delhi, however, the news about Sharmistha’s father bridging the divide and speaking to the political enemy has been greeted with dismay. Congress leader P. Chidambaram said Pranab Mukherjee should teach the RSS a lesson in secularism, while party colleague Jairam Ramesh suggested he needn’t go to Nagpur at all.

Back in 2015, Sharmistha’s entry into electoral politics had been rocky. When Delhi went to the polls in February, she was decimated at the hustings, coming third in the Greater Kailash constituency, polling only 6,102 votes (AAP candidate Saurabh Bharadwaj won with 57,589 votes, and the runner-up, BJP candidate Rakesh Gullaiya, polled 43,006 votes).

But the former President’s daughter had already proved her mettle in the public arena by differing with her own brother in the wake of the Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi in December 2012. When Abhijeet Mukherjee, who had recently won from his father’s seat in West Bengal’s Jangipur, described the women coming out to protest against the gang rape as “highly dented and painted”, Sharmistha expressed surprise and pointed out that her family “was not like this”.

Now, as rumours swirled that she may also go soft on the BJP, her direct boss in the party, Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken, was forced to admit on Twitter that he had asked her about her future plans.

Sharmistha, too, vehemently denied the rumours. Then she went on to sorrowfully berate her father that he had allowed his objectivity to be taken in by the BJP’s “dirty tricks department”.

@CitiznMukherjee will soon return to the leafy lanes of central Delhi, to read his books, finalise the last volume of his autobiography and watch the seasons change.

Pranab may or may not use the opportunity to tell the RSS what he really thought of them all these years. But his mere presence at the event has already got his daughter hauled over the coals by his own beloved party.

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  1. Congrats, Sharmishtha, well done. Pranab Mukerjee should be ashamed of himself for not honing up on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Let him begin by reading Pankaj Mishra’s ‘ Age of Anger’, in which the author clearly documents Savarkar’s criminality, his involvement in the murder of the Mahatma and his fascistic prescription that Hindudom must be militarized and that its main enemies are are Muslims, Christians and communists in that order. Is that the India our youth need or want?

  2. A very classy lady. After a dance performance in London, as she was relaxing in her hotel, she told a friend with a smile, recalling Mae West, When I am good, I am very good. When I am bad, I am even better.

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