New Delhi: Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee’s last book “Presidential Years” has sparked a row of controversy in his own family. The tell-all memoir has caused a public fight between his son Abhijit Mukherjee and daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee, both Congress leaders.
The congress veteran who died in August earlier this year, in his book has made some severely critical references to both former prime minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
What’s the matter?
In the family dispute that has gone public, Abhijeet Mukherjee, son of the former President, through a series of tweets accused his late father’s final book “Presidential Years” as malicious and had asked the publisher not to release the book until he goes through the whole draft.
“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,” his tweet quoted.
“Since my father is no more, I being his son want to go through the contents of the final copy of the book before it’s publication as I believe, had my father been alive today, he too would have done the same,” he wrote.
“Therefore, I being his son request You to immediately stop it’s publication without my written consent till I go through its contents! I have already sent you a detailed letter in this regard which will reach You soon!”
3/3 , Therefore , I being his son request You to immediately stop it’s publication without my written consent till I go through its contents ! I have already sent you a detailed letter in this regard which will reach You soon !
Regards – Abhijit Mukherjee.#pranabmukherjee
— Abhijit Mukherjee (@ABHIJIT_LS) December 15, 2020
Replying to the tweet of her brother, Sharmishtha Mukherjee, asked her brother not to create any hurdles in the publishing of the book and corrected him that the name of the book he wrote was wrong.
“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,” her tweet quoted.
“The final draft contains my dads’ hand written notes and comments that have been strictly adhered to. The views expressed by him are his own & no one should try to stop it from being published for any cheap publicity. That would be the greatest disservice to our departed father,” she worte.
“Btw bro, the title of the book is ‘The Presidential Years’, not ‘The Presidential Memoirs’,” she finally tweeted.
What’s there in the book?
According to the excerpts released by the publisher, the final volume of “The Presidential Years”, Pranab Mukherjee wrote that “some members of the Congress” believed if he had become Prime Minister in 2004 instead of Manmohan Singh, the party would not have lost power.
“Some members of the Congress have theorized that, had I become the PM in 2004, the party might have averted the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing. Though I don’t subscribe to this view, I do believe that the party’s leadership lost political focus after my elevation as president. While Sonia Gandhi was unable to handle the affairs of the party, Dr (Manmohan) Singh’s prolonged absence from the House put an end to any personal contact with other MPs,” according to excerpts released by publishers Rupa.
In the final edition of his book, the former President also compared the two Prime ministers he worked with- Dr Manmohan Singh and his successor Narendra Modi.
“I believe that the moral authority to govern vests with the PM. The overall state of the nation is reflective of the functioning of the PM and his administration. While Dr Singh was preoccupied with saving the coalition, which took a toll on governance, Modi seemed to have employed a rather autocratic style of governance during his first term, as seen by the bitter relationship among the government, the legislature, and the judiciary. Only time will tell if there is a better understanding on such matters in the second term of this government,” he wrote, according to the excerpts.
The battle of lineage
It is an open fact that the former president was closer to his daughter and considered her a true inheritor but the norms suggest that the son may be seen as the inheritor of a parent’s legacy.
According to reports, Sharmistha lived with the former president in his official residence in his years after retirement as president. She was always by his side when he traveled abroad as president, assisted him, and also has a diary of the former president which has some explosive facts.
Meanwhile, it was his son who was chosen to contest from Pranab Mukherjee’s constituency Jangipur, not the daughter.
It was noticed that in the last few days of the former President, his son 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.
“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,” a close aide of the family said.
Earlier issues between the siblings
In 2012, Abhijit had mocked protests over rape by saying it was being done by “dented painted women”, to which Sharmistha hit back and apologized on his behalf and said that “as a family, we don’t accept these remarks.”