|Chitralekha with Abhijit Mukherjee at the Parliament complex. File picture
Calcutta, Dec. 28: Abhijit Mukherjee’s conjugal bliss and ability to stay silent now lie in the hands of a higher power. So does Chitralekha Mukherjee’s political debut.
The flight paths of husband and wife crossed today as Chitralekha flew to Calcutta this morning from Delhi to offer puja to Goddess Kali at the Dakshineswar temple for peace in her family.
Abhijit, Congress MP and son of President Pranab Mukherjee, had caused considerable domestic disquiet and national outrage by referring to the Delhi rape protesters as “dented and painted” women.
“I went to the Dakshineswar Kali temple this morning to offer puja to the deity, seeking blessings for peace in my family,” Chitralekha told The Telegraph this afternoon before leaving for the airport.
“I came down to Calcutta to offer puja at the Kali temple and meet some close relatives. I felt disturbed as one channel after another beamed the news of my husband’s unsavoury statements against women protesters in Delhi all through yesterday despite his unconditional apology,” she added.
Abhijit, having issued repeatedly what must have been the most aired apology in recent memory, had already left for Delhi from Calcutta when Chitralekha landed in the eastern city.
A temple official said Chitralekha arrived around 9am and spent over half an hour offering prayers. “She (Chitralekha) offered flowers and sweets to the deity and prayed,” he said.
Those familiar with such matters approved of Chitralekha’s choice of the place of worship but an opinion also exists that she may have missed a key ingredient.
“Worshipping a goddess of the Shakti cult like Kali at a potent seat like Dakshineswar will recompense the loss of status,” Nitai Chakraborty, president of the Vaidik Pandit Purohit Mahamilan Kendra, said in response to a question.
Chakraborty hoped that Chitralekha had included a radish in her offerings. “Since a radish has roots, offering it as part of the ritual worship is supposed to uproot all problems,” he added.
State Congress secretary Saumitra Roy, who had accompanied Chitralekha to the Kali temple, said a radish was not among Chitralekha’s offerings.
Some believers said the radish was not preferred during the current month of Poush on the Bengali calendar. But the Visuddhasiddhanta almanac says the ban takes effect in the month of Magh, which begins in mid-January.
If the radish oversight is overlooked and Abhijit is blessed with the power to show discretion in public, Chitralekha stands a chance to gain something more than domestic peace.
The seat vacated by Abhijit — he resigned the Nalhati Assembly seat and contested and won from his father’s Jangipur Lok Sabha seat — will need a candidate when byelections are called.
Chitralekha suggested that she was not averse to contesting from Nalhati if the Congress high command cleared her name.
Chitralekha said in response to a question: “I had visited almost every nook and corner of Nalhati while steering the campaign for my husband. The party ranks and leaders from Birbhum’s Nalhati also want me to contest. But everything depends on the party high command. If it recommends my name, I have no problem.”
Birbhum Congress president Syed Siraj Jimi expressed the fear that “Abhijitbabu’s” comments would come as an embarrassment for the party at a time “we are trying to project Boudi (Chitralekha) as our probable candidate”.
Some Bengal Congress leaders felt that Sharmistha, Abhijit’s sister and the first family member to publicly denounce his statement, was also a contender. Sharmistha could not be contacted for comment.
The final decision lies with the high command. If divine intervention also counts, Chitralekha appears to have an edge for the time being. Sharmistha was in Andhra but she could not accompany her father to Tirupati yesterday, probably because she had a dance programme.