In another major setback for the Congress in West Bengal, late Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee joined Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday, ending weeks of speculation and denial by him.
"The way Mamata Banerjee halted the recent communal wave by BJP, I believe that in the future, with the support of others, she would be able to do the same in the entire country," said Abhijit Mukherjee in his first comments after joining the Trinamool.The former two-time lawmaker in the Lok Sabha in his father’s constituency of Jangipur in Murshidabad district of West Bengal had been in talks with the TMC leadership over the past few weeks, party insiders said.
Abhijit Mukherjee was also an MLA from Nalhati. His father Pranab Mukherjee won the Jangipur constituency in Bengal's Murshidabad district twice as a Congress MP till he vacated it in 2012 to run for President.
However, the former President’s daughter is a Congress leader in Delhi.
Abhijit Mukherjee was welcomed into the party by TMC leader in Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, amid shouts of 'Mamata Banerjee Zindabad!'
"Didi succeeded in halting the BJP juggernaut in West Bengal. She is the most credible secular leader in the country who can fight and defeat the communal BJP. I have left one Congress to join another. We are sure of resisting the saffron camp across India in the future," Mukherjee told the joining ceremony.
The newly inducted leader said while he was in touch with Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee before the assembly elections, had he joined the TMC before the polls, it would have been construed that he switched allegiance for some posts."I don't hanker for any post. I work as a grassroots worker and it is up to the party to decide how to use me. I did not have any post in the Congress," Abhijit Mukherjee added.
TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said the party hopes that Abhijit Mukherjee's political acumen and sagacity will help it ensure a "BJP-free India" in the future.
"We would like to use his services appropriately to fight the communal, undemocratic and fascist forces. He is the son of Pranab Mukherjee, who was our source of inspiration on many matters. He was a politician with deep roots in secular and progressive values," Chatterjee added.
The Congress, which fought the Bengal elections in partnership with the Left, was decimated. The party got zero seats; the Left too failed to win any seat.
Political circles in West Bengal said Trinamool may offer Mukherjee the Jangipur assembly seat which is set go to polls s a candidate there had passed away just before the elections.
Even though, they said, Abhijit Mukherjee is not a political heavyweight, his shift to TMC could be a major embarrassment for the Congress, which has lost some of its prominent faces in recent years.
Rumours of Abhijit Mukherjee's exit gathered pace after Jitin Prasada, Congress's top Brahmin face in UP, vaulted to the BJP. Prasada is the second high-profile Rahul Gandhi aide to move to the BJP after Jyotiraditya Scindia left last year.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Himanta Biswa Sarma are some of the prominent leaders who left the Congress to join the Bharatiya Janata Party in the past few years.
The dissenting leaders in the Congress have been pressing for widespread reforms across all levels of the party.
Abhijit Mukherjee won by-polls in the Jangipur parliamentary constituency after his father vacated the seat in 2012; he won it again in 2014. He lost to Trinamool's Khalilur Rahman in 2019.
Recently, Mukul Roy, along with son Shubhranshu, returned to his parent party, Trinamool, after a stint in the BJP.