New Delhi: 'The Presidential Years', the new book by late former President Pranab Mukherjee which presented a critical point of view for the Congress party, has thrown up a very public controversy among the ranks of the grand old party, with veteran leaders visibly uncomfortable with the several contentious remarks made in the book.
The latest addition to this row are Pranab Mukherjee's scions — Abhijeet and Sharmistha Mukherjee — who stand at crossroads marked by contradicting opinions on the content of the book.
The ex-President's son Abhijit Mukherjee on Tuesday tweeted that being the son of the late author, he has requested the publishers to "immediately stop" the publication of the memoir since "motivated excerpts" from the book are floating on "certain media platforms" without his written consent.
Abhijit, a former Congress MP, said that he intended to go through the contents of the final copy of the book before its publication, and that he believed his father, Pranab Mukherjee, would have wanted him to do the same had he been alive today.
"I, the Son of the author of the Memoir " The Presidential Memoirs " request you to kindly stop the publication of the memoir as well as motivated excerpts which is already floating in certain media platforms without my written consent," tweeted Abhijit Mukherjee, tagging the publisher, Rupa Publications, in his post.
"Since my father is no more, I being his son want to go through the contents of the final copy of the book before it's publication as I believe , had my father been alive today, he too would have done the same," he continued.
Adding, "Therefore, I being his son request You to immediately stop it's publication without my written consent till I go through its contents ! I have already sent you a detailed letter in this regard which will reach You soon!"
He, however, mistitled the book itself in the tweet, calling it 'The Presidential Memoirs' instead of the actual title of the book — 'The Presidential Years', which was pointed out by his sister, Sharmistha Mukherjee, later.
Sharmistha Mukherjee hit out at her brother over the latter's tweets and asked him to not create "any unnecessary hurdles" in the publication of the book. As she pointed out, the final draft of the manuscript, that was completed just before the late ex-President fell sick, contains his "hand written notes & comments that have been strictly adhered to"
No one should try to stop the memoir's publication for any "cheap publicity", Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha warned.
"I, daughter of the author of the memoir ‘The Presidential Years’, request my brother @ABHIJIT_LS not to create any unnecessary hurdles in publication of the last book written by our father. He completed the manuscript before he fell sick," tweeted Sharmistha Mukherjee on this day.
She added, "The final draft contains my dads’ hand written notes & comments that have been strictly adhered to. The views expressed by him are his own & no one should try to stop it from being published for any cheap publicity. That would be the greatest disservice to our departed father."
Finally, she pointed out her brother's mistake in mistitling the book and said, "Btw bro, the title of the book is ‘The Presidential Years’, not ‘The Presidential Memoirs’."
Memoir sparks controversy
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders have said it's premature to comment on the new book by late former President Pranab Mukherjee which presented a critical point of view for the party without reading it in full.
The former president presents a critical point of view for the Congress, in which he was a senior leader for over five decades.
The Congress had lost political focus after his elevation as the President and some party members believed that had he become the prime minister in 2004, the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle could have been averted, Pranab Mukherjee wrote in his memoir.
"Though I don't subscribe to this view, I do believe that the party's leadership lost political focus after my elevation as president. While Sonia Gandhi was unable to handle the affairs of the party, Dr Singh's prolonged absence from the House put an end to any personal contact with other MPs," he wrote, according to excerpts from the book released by Rupa.
The book, according to the publisher, will recount his fascinating journey from growing up under the flicker of a lamp in a remote village of Bengal to walking the rampart of the Rasthrapati Bhavan as the first citizen of India.
Mukherjee completed the book "The Presidential Years" before his death. The memoir will be globally released in January 2021, publisher Rupa Books announced on Friday.
The former president died on July 31 at the age of 84, following COVID-19 complications.
His observations come at a time of intense internal turmoil in the Congress.