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No. 13: Like dad, like son

- Abhijit given talkatora road house
Abhijit Mukherjee’s 13 Talkatora residence. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Nov. 27: If Abhijit Mukherjee keeps following in his father’s footsteps like he has done so far, Bengal could look forward to sending another honourable son to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The newly elected MP, who recently won a bypoll from the Lok Sabha seat his father Pranab Mukherjee vacated before going on to become President, has been allotted 13 Talkatora Road as his official residence.

It’s the same bungalow where his father had stayed for nearly 16 years before moving to Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 25.

Mukherjee Sr. had refused to move out of this Type 6 bungalow although he was eligible for a bigger Type 8 one as the senior-most ministers in the Union cabinet.

Sources said he stuck to the house because he believed it was “lucky” for him.

Mukherjee’s room in Parliament House was also No. 13 and — as luck would have it — he went on to become the 13th President of India.

Did anyone say unlucky 13?

However, Mukherjee, the first Bengali to become President, always claimed his wife Suvra did not like shifting houses.

Abhijit was allotted the Talkatora Road bungalow soon after his swearing-in on November 22, the day Parliament reopened for the winter session.

“There is no norm that a father’s house after his retirement or leaving the service should go to the son even if he (the son) is eligible for the accommodation,” said a senior official in the urban development ministry. “But this was definitely a special case scenario.”

He didn’t explain why it was a “special case”.

Abhijit said the bungalow would be his official residence. “I won’t be moving into the house. I will be staying in our personal residence at Greater Kailash. But this will be my official residence which I shall use as my office,” the MP from Jangipur, Murshidabad, told The Telegraph.

Asked if he had sought this particular house, he refused comment.

Many had believed Mukherjee would retain the bungalow even after moving to Rashtrapati Bhavan. “The house is close to Rashtrapati Bhavan and could have easily been listed among the President’s secretariat bungalows. There was a proposal to do so, but nothing concrete happened,” the ministry official said.

Mukherjee, who has stayed in several houses in his 43 years as a parliamentarian, had moved into the bungalow in July 1996. In 1969, when he was first elected a Rajya Sabha MP, he had been allotted 15 Pandit Pant Marg. He also stayed a few years at 11 Ashoka Road, which is now the BJP’s office.

But for 16 years he remained at 13 Talkatora Road, although space was a problem. In 2004, when Mukherjee returned to the Union cabinet, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was then urban development minister, got an additional visitors’ room built.

The President vacated the house within a month of his swearing-in, before the Congress formally announced his son’s nomination from Jangipur which he had won twice — in 2004 and 2009.

Abhijit scraped through in the October bypoll, winning by a margin of just 2,536 votes.

What next? Maybe a bigger house.

How about a vast mansion that is more than 80 years old and has over 300 rooms?