Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday sought the blessings of Ramakrishna Math and Mission president Swami Atmasthananda at Belur Math and savoured payesh offered by the monks.
Mukherjee, who was at the Math for about an hour from 11.30am, spent 10 minutes with Swami Atmasthananda. “The two relived a bit of their past, shared some hearty laughter and, finally, before leaving, Pranab-babu sought maharaj’s blessings,” a senior monk said.
The interaction brought back the memories of 1982 when a tornado had hit Gaighata in North 24-Parganas, leaving thousands homeless, and Mukherjee who was the finance minister was touring Bengal with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
“When Pranab-babu sought Indira Gandhi’s help, she told him the relief work should be entrusted with Ramakrishna Mission and directed him to get in touch with Atmasthanandaji, then the assistant secretary in charge of relief work,” said a senior monk. “Thus began an association that grew in strength over the years.”
On Sunday, Mukherjee’s son Abhijit was with him. “We gifted him (Mukherjee) a dhoti and a shawl used to drape Sri Ramakrishna’s idol as a token offering,” said a Math office-bearer. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Calcutta, June 24: Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit today said he would call on Mamata Banerjee to try and persuade her to support his father for President, adding he was “confident” about bringing her round.
“I am planning to personally call on Mamatadi after my father files his nomination, on June 27 or 28,” Abhijit, who had yesterday made a “personal appeal” to Mamata through the media, told The Telegraph tonight.
“I am still confident about extracting her support for my father. I strongly believe that she will not show me the door when I approach her with my plea.”
The Congress MLA from Nalhati in Birbhum heaped praise on Mamata for extending her “whole-hearted support” to “my becoming a first-time member of the legislative assembly”.
He added: “Trinamul Congress members worked hard to help me sail through last year’s Assembly polls at Mamatadi’s behest. Without Mamatadi’s help, I could not have defeated a Forward Bloc candidate in a citadel of that party.”
Abhijit explained why he believed Mamata might change her mind and back his father: “She has not extended support to the BJP-backed P.A. Sangma. I consider it a positive sign.”
A Trinamul general secretary who is close to Mamata seconded Abhijit’s logic. “Although a letter from Sangma’s office reached us at least four days ago seeking an appointment with Mamatadi, she has so far not responded keeping in mind that any support for Sangma would take its toll on our Muslim vote bank,” the source said.
Sangma’s son James confirmed this. “We did write to the office of the Bengal chief minister seeking an appointment with my father a few days ago, but we have not heard from (them). Against this backdrop, my father has launched his campaign in other state capitals,” he said from Delhi.
Trinamul Union minister Sultan Ahmed too said Mamata was unlikely to support Sangma as the BJP was backing him. A Trinamul MP suggested that Mamata might “at best” ask party lawmakers to abstain from voting in the presidential election.
If she does so, Mamata would find herself in the company of the RSP, CPI and the CPI-ML (Liberation). A PTI report quoted Liberation general secretary Deepankar Bhattacharya as saying the party would abstain from the presidential election because it disapproved of the policies of both the UPA and the NDA.
Mukherjee met governor M.K. Narayanan over lunch at Raj Bhavan for 45 minutes. Raj Bhavan officials described his visit as a courtesy call.
The Congress’s man in charge of Bengal affairs, Shakeel Ahmed, who has been asked to accompany Mukherjee during his campaign in Bengal next week, said from Delhi that he would try to arrange a meeting between Mamata and Mukherjee.
“I am confident about facilitating a meeting between Mamataji and Pranabda when I arrive in Calcutta for the campaign,” he said.
Abhijit said he would leave for Delhi tomorrow “to help my father scrutinise” his nomination papers.