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Pranab’s son, daughter at odds over his new memoir

By Sunetra Choudhury
PUBLISHED ON DEC 15, 2020 11:56 PM IST

NEW Delhi: Days after publishing house Rupa announced the planned launch next year of late former President Pranab Mukherjee’s final volume of memoirs, his son and former Lok Sabha member Abhijit Mukherjee has demanded that the publication be stopped until he approves it, triggering a war of words on Twitter with his younger sister Sharmishta Mukherjee , who supported the launch and mocked him for getting the title of the book wrong.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Mukherjee said the excerpts from the book that were released by the publisher were “motivated” and the former President would not have approved of them.

Hindustan Times reached out to executives at the publishing house, but they declined to comment publicly on the matter for now. On condition of anonymity, one executive told Hindustan Times that President Mukherjee had approved not just the final draft of the manuscript, but also the cover design a day before he was admitted to hospital.

Mukherjee was admitted in hospital on August 10 for a surgery to remove a clot in his brain . A former Congress politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 to 2017, he also tested positive for the coronavirus disease on being admitted to the hospital. Mukherjee died on August 31 at the age of 84.

Rupa released some excerpts of The Presidential Years on Friday in which he blames Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the party’s devastating loss in the 2014 general elections. In the book, he also writes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi employed an autocratic style of governance during his first term in power.

“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,” he wrote in the book, according to the released excerpts. “Only time will tell if there is a better understanding on such matters in the second term of this government.”

Abhijit Mukherjee tweeted: “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,”

He addressed publisher Kapish Mehra to say: “Since my father is no more, I being his son want to go through the contents of the final copy of the book before its publication as I believe , had my father been alive today, he too would have done the same.He added: “request you to immediately stop its 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.’’

His sister also took to Twitter to support the launch of the memoirs, oppose his demand to stop its publication and mock hem gently.

“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,” she wrote on Twitter. “He completed the manuscript before he fell sick.The final draft contains my dad’s hand written notes & 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 wrote.

``Btw bro, the title of the book is ‘The Presidential Years’, not ‘The Presidential Memoirs’,’’ she concluded.

A former official of Rashtrapati Bhawan who interacted with both during his presidency said the siblings shared “a difficult relationship’’. When her brother dismissed women protestors against the December 2012 gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student as “dented and painted’’ women, Sharmishta Mukherjee was critical of him. And while Sharmishta Mukherjee stayed with her father in Rashtrapati Bhawan, Abhijeet Mukherjee would only visit the presidential residence, said the official, who didn’t want to be named..

The book, due for publication early next year, is part four of Mukherjee’s memoirs, the first of which was published in 2014, when he was still in Rashtrapati Bhawan. The executive quoted above said the former President had first signed an agreement with Rupa in 2013. The latest book contract was signed in 2018, he said, adding: “Mr Abhijit Mukherjee was nowhere in the picture.”.

Another officialwho worked with the former President confirmed to Hindustan Times that Mukherjee had approved the latest volume’s publication, adding that Sharmishta Mukherjee, who is also a Congress member, was much more in the loop on the contents of the book than her brother.

The Congress Party has not responded so far to the published excerpts of the memoirs

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