Calcutta, Dec. 27: Abhijit Mukherjee has pulled off something no Bengal politician has managed for decades: unite the whole country against himself and pit his family against himself.
Abhijit, the Jangipur Congress MP and the son of President Pranab Mukherjee, told ABP Ananda on Christmas Day that “dented and painted” women were behind the Delhi protests against the gang rape of a girl in a bus.
Bengal found itself back in the glare when it emerged that CPM MLA and former minister Anisur Rahman made derogatory references to chief minister Mamata Banerjee while referring to monetary compensation for rape victims.
The disease soon became a partyless affliction. Bengal minister Humayun Kabir was accused by a construction firm manager of threatening to abduct him and using intemperate language in a phone call. ( )
Abhijit’s loaded phrase ricocheted across the country today as one channel after another beamed it, triggering an outcry and pouring oil into the fire just when a national consensus appeared to be emerging on the urgency to fight atrocities on women and the mindset behind the brutality.
By afternoon, Abhijit’s sister had publicly added her voice to the outrage, followed by his wife in the evening. Abhijit said his son had also “rebuked me for my statements”.
By evening, Abhijit was flitting from one television screen to another, reeling off one unconditional apology after another and withdrawing his comments. He offered to resign, too, if the Congress wanted him to do so.
Abhijit took pains to distance the President’s office from the mess — an unfortunate time for Pranab Mukherjee who has been extremely careful with his words during his long career. The President was on his way to Tirupati when the storm broke.
A chilly reception awaits the junior Mukherjee when he returns to Calcutta, not just because the official minimum temperature dipped to 10°C — which made Thursday the coldest December day in 28 years.
“I was told that my husband was in his Jangipur constituency and I must talk to him tonight when he returns to Calcutta,” Abhijit’s wife Chitralekha said.
“I strongly condemn what my husband said about women protesters. He should not have made such unsavoury comments that must have hurt all women, including me,” Chitralekha said from Delhi.
Anisur and (right) Kabir
Abhijit’s sister Sharmistha said in Hyderabad: “I don’t agree with what my dada said. I think he should not have said such things against women.”
The virus leapt from Abhijit to Anisur, whose comments at a CPM peasant wing meeting in Dinajpur yesterday are not fit to be printed in a newspaper.
What the comments suggested was the CPM had not learnt from the mistake of former MP Anil Basu, whose intemperate references to Mamata had helped deepen the party’s debacle in the Assembly polls.
Prodded by the leadership, Anisur, an MLA for 21 years, tendered an unconditional apology to the chief minister by issuing a statement at Alimuddin Street.
“While speaking about the compensation for rape victims, I had mistakenly used some words that were unethical. It was a mistake…. I tender unconditional apology to the chief minister and to the people of our state,’’ Anisur said in the statement.
Anisur was summoned to the CPM headquarters this evening and censured, sources said. “We, as a party, do not and never subscribe to such indecent remarks made by Anisur Rahman. It is his responsibility to defend himself,” CPM state secretary Biman Bose said.
The CPM-backed Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti denounced Anisur’s statement as “in poor taste that cannot be supported”.
Minister Partha Chatterjee has submitted a breach of privilege motion to the Speaker against Anisur’s “undignified and ugly” remarks. “Envious of Mamata Banerjee, they are attacking her using ugly language, which we cannot accept,” Chatterjee said.