Nalhati is a non-descript small town in Birbhum district but it has emerged as one of the most important Assembly constituencies in the state because of the presence of Abhijit Mukherjee, who is making his debut in electoral politics. Fifty-year-old Mukherjee is the eldest son of the Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Till last month, he was working as the general manager of Steel Authority of India Limited. Surprisingly, the transition from the cosy corporate world to the heat and dust of electoral politics has been rather smooth. “Politics is not alien to me. It runs in my blood,” he tells Parwez Hafeez:
Q: You are a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering and have been occupying a top position in a blue-chipped company like SAIL. What prompted you to give up such a high-profile and rewarding job for the uncertain world of politics?
A: It may sound clichetic but believe me I have always wanted to serve the people and politics is the best platform through which I can achieve this objective. I did not want to keep my mission on hold till retirement and therefore after I turned 50 I decided to take the plunge. I thought it was the right time because I am in good health and raring to go.
Q: Why did you select a rural Assembly constituency for your debut?
A: It was the other way round. It was Nalhati which chose me as its candidate. Last November, Birbhum district Congress organised a social programme at Nalhait where the people unanimously proposed my name as the possible Congress candidate from Nalhati seat for the Assembly polls. This was the culmination of a process which had started a few years ago when senior district Congress leaders had approached my father and urged him to allow me to contest from Nalhati. My father had told them that Abhijit will have to make his own decision. At that time I was a little reluctant. But over the past few months, the pressure of the people kept on mounting and during the November Puja-Id get together, they made it clear that they will not take no for an answer.
Q: What happened next?
A: Like a traditional Indian son who has to seek his father’s permission before taking any major decision in his life, I approached my father. He gave me his blessings but also added that I will have to take the final call.
Q: Did your wife object to your decision?
A: On the contrary, Chitralekha has totally supported my decision. In fact, I took this decision after receiving encouragement from her and my children. She is working shoulder to shoulder with me in seeking people’s support. She is campaigning for me particularly among the women voters of my constituency. In short, my wife is like a solid rock behind me.
Q: Don’t you think that your entry into politics will again fuel charges of dynastic rule against the Congress?
A: Why should it? I have not inherited my nomination from my father. Moreover, my father has not imposed me on the people of Nalhati. I have been given the party ticket in deference to the local people’s sentiments. And mind you Nalhati does not have a sitting Congress MLA. In fact, there were no claimants for the seat which the Congress has not been able to win since 1967. In the rest of the state Left Front has been ruling for 34 years but Nalhati has been under their control for 44 years. My nomination from Nalhati is a big challenge for me and I am confident that I will be able to make my party proud by winning back the seat from the communists after four decades.
Q: But you can’t deny that being Pranab Mukherjee’s son has been a big advantage?
A: Who is denying? You would not have taken the trouble of travelling nearly 300 km to interview me if my name was not Abhijit Mukherjee. But is it a crime to be the son of an illustrious father? Besides, I am not alien to politics. It runs in my blood. Much before my father, it was my grandfather Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee who was a great freedom fighter. Asian Age