On 28 February, the evening before the festival of Holi, former president Pranab Mukherjee was in Kolkata. In Delhi, meanwhile, at the Congress Headquarter at 24 Akbar Road, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi had just announced the Drafting Committee and Organising Committee for the plenary session of the party. In almost no time, a PDF file of that eight-page press release had reached him in Kolkata.
Since the day he had been elected President of India, Pranab Babu had risen above politics. But all those close to him know that his political mind never retired. Instead, he still closely monitors national, international and regional politics at all times. Political analysis is going on in his head round the clock.
Sometimes, he even jots down his personal opinions regarding some current issues in his diary. But this may not have been the reason behind him meticulously checking up on the formation of the Drafting Committee and Organising Committee of Congress' plenary session.
The reason was completely different. This time, the special invitee in the plenary session committee was his beloved daughter 'Munni' aka Sharmistha Mukherjee. Her name figured in the economic affairs sub-group along with the likes of AK Antony and Anand Sharma.
This clearly states both Pranab Babu's interest and anxiety about Sharmistha's rise and her future in Congress politics. Since Indira Gandhi's regime, Pranab had had the responsibility of drafting the resolution for such all-India conferences for the Congress. Now, seeing his own daughter stepping into his shoes, he must've cropped a feeling of pride inside his heart.
Sharmistha has been close to her father all her life, despite the fact that Pranab Babu spent less time with his family owing to his political and administrative duties. Even when asked if he had ever gone for a vacation with his family, his response reflected the same: "Yes, when children had holidays, once or twice, I took them to Badkhal Lake or Karnal Lake for boating."
During the UPA tenure, when he was the leader of Lok Sabha and functionally the number two in the cabinet, the father and the daughter hardly met. Pranab kept busy 24x7. Sharmistha would have to go to his Talkatora residence to meet her father. But, in spite of such a busy schedule, any mention of his 'Munni' would always make his face glow with an affectionate and pampering smile.
He also loved Sharmistha's Kathak performances. A sombre politician like him used to take a lot of pride in talking about Sharmistha and her dance troop's performances in foreign countries. Tears of happiness would roll down his cheeks as he would mention, with fondness, how his 'Munni' played with snow when she accompanied him on his tour of Antarctica. As if 'Munni' was still a little girl.
Though Pranab Babu has always been a loving and caring father, sources in the family say that he never used to discuss politics or his political plans with his family. This suggests that Sharmistha, living in the same house with him, never knew about his plans to attend the RSS convocation in Nagpur on Thursday. She only came to know about it after Pranab Babu had reached his decision.
It was quite evident that her father's decision of going to Nagpur had miffed Sharmistha and put her in a spot of bother. Still, she has been avoiding the media ever since, so that she does not show her apparent displeasure or disregard towards her father. Maybe this is why she has currently taken a break and decided to head off to the hills.
But, rumours of her joining the BJP have been rife. And now, she has finally revealed her annoyance against Pranab Babu's decision. Sharmistha, perhaps, has realised that her father's decision is hampering her political career. Even if not her career, people with vested interests won't sit idle from maligning her status in the party.
She said that 'even the RSS leaders know that even though Pranab Babu is going to attend their convocation, he will never support their ideology'.
But, she fears that nobody will remember what Pranab Babu will say in his speech. Only the picture of him being in the RSS headquarter will remain. And a few are bound to play dirty politics using those pictures.
Today, politics is momentary; it is based on what's trending on social media, paid trolls and sting operations. Pranab Babu was never interested about this new form of short-lived political trickery. He still believes that a strong ideology, political philosophy and healthy dialogue decide the course of real politics. Had he been little aware of how his decision would dampen Sharmistha's political status, he would definitely have given RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's invitation a rethink.
Pranab's family and relatives still believe that the speech he will deliver in Reshambag on Thursday evening will not become a burden on Sharmistha's politics. Rather Sharmistha will proudly feel that only her father could have decided to speak in such a manner.
But, there is also the possibility of dirty tricks in politics – of using Pranab's pictures in the RSS headquarter to reap political benefits. Sharmistha may have opened up against her father's decision to nip this likely game in the bud.
The author is the joint editor and founder of thewall.in. He has closely followed the Mukherjees' political careers.
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Updated Date: Jun 07, 2018 17:37:13 IST