President Pranab Mukherjee may not be in active politics now that he is the President, but his family members are keen to carry on his political legacy. His son Abhijit Mukherjee looks set to get the Congress ticket for the upcoming Jangipur Lok Sabha byelection.
The seat was vacated by Pranab after he moved to Raisina Hill in July. Abhijit apparently decided to contest for the seat despite Pranab's advice to the contrary. The President had tried to stop his son, an MLA from Nalhati, from contesting for the Lok Sabha seat and advised him to stick to the state legislative assembly for now.
A few days ago, he called up Abhijit and told him not to ditch Nalhati for Jangipur. "You are a new MLA and should not dream big. You should continue to nurture the constituency and the people," Pranab is understood to have told his son.
Abhijit, however, is adamant to become a Member of Parliament, sources said. The state unit of the Congress has apparently thrown its weight behind Abhijit while party president Sonia Gandhi has left it to Pranab to decide his successor in Jangipur.
The President, sources said, is a little embarrassed as he does not want to be seen as promoting the political interests of his family members. Sources said he is aware of the controversy surrounding his predecessor Pratibha Patil's son Rajendra Shekhawat, who wangled a Congress ticket from Amravati, pushing out sitting MLA Sunil Deshmukh, who's also a minister.
Adding to Pranab's worries, his sister- in- law Suvra Ghosh, a Congress general- secretary in West Bengal, is also lobbying for the party ticket from Nalhati, in case Abhijit vacates it to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll, or Jangipur if he retains his assembly seat.
Pranab's additional private secretary Pradyut Guha was also eyeing his Lok Sabha bypoll. An old Congress hand, Guha was the Youth Congress general secretary in the 1980s. Some partymen had even suggested the name of Dada's daughter Sarmistha, though she is not into politics. The by- election will be held on October 10 and the counting on October 13. The last date for filing nominations is September 22.
Abhijit clearly has an edge over other claimants to Pranab's Jangipur seat. Congress sources said he has already approached the party's district leadership in Murshidabad seeking nomination. Asked if the party has taken any decision on the candidate, Congress Working Committee member and West Bengal in- charge Shakeel Ahmed said: "I have asked the state Congress chief to send the panel of names with recommendations. I may get that in a day or two and will forward them to the party president."
However, a section of state leaders are worried about the party's victory prospects in Nalhati if Abhijit ditches the assembly constituency to contest for the Lok Sabha. The Trinamool Congress had backed Abhijit, but now indications are the party may field its own candidate in the by- election. In that case, it would be difficult for the Congress to reclaim the seat. The Congress has only 42 MLAs in the state, the minimum mark to get a member elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state.The CPM has declared Mojaffar Hossein as its candidate for Jangipur. Pranab had won from this seat in 2004 and 2009.
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