Kolkata: It is ‘Delhi Chalo’ of a different kind. With West Bengal’s Pranab Mukherjee all set to take over as India’s president on Wednesday, his family members, relatives and political colleagues are now bound for the national capital to witness the swearing-in ceremony of the new first citizen.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has had a hot and cold relationship with Mr Mukherjee over the years and even opposed his candidature for the top post almost till the end before finally backing him in the election, would be leaving on Tuesday for attending the function at the Central Hall of Parliament.
Official sources said Ms Banerjee had a cramped schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday, but her entire itinerary has now been redrawn to facilitate her presence in New Delhi. A film awards function slated for 6 pm on Tuesday has been advanced by an hour for this purpose.
Pradesh Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya is already in New Delhi, and all Congress MPs from the state are also likely to be present as Mr Mukherjee caps his over four-decade-old political career, that began in Bengal in the 1960s, with the highest constitutional office of the land.
“A large number of Pradesh Congress leaders want to attend the historic programme. It is the first time in 65 years after independence that a Bengali is going to be the occupant of Raisina Hill,” Mr Bhattacharya told IANS from New Delhi.
Mr Mukherjee’s close aide Prodyut Guha, meanwhile, said: “The list of invitees is still being drawn up by Rashtrapati Bhavan”.
Jangipur, the remote Lok Sabha constituency in Murshidabad district, has been electing Mr Mukherjee in the last two general elections, and would have its representatives at the oath-taking function.
Four Congress state lawmakers from the constituency, Mohd. Sohrab (Jangipur), Akhruzzaman (Raghunathganj), Abu Taher Khan (Noada) and Imani Biswas (Suti), would also reach Delhi to witness first-hand the swearing-in of tehir “Pranabda” as the new ‘Rashtrapati’.
“It is a great day for us. He has done so much for the development of Jangipur since his maiden election in 2004,” Mr Biswas told IANS.
In Mushidabad’s neighbouring district Birbhum, festivities are continuing in Mr Mukherjee’s ancestral village Mirati and its nearby town Kinahar with their very own “Poltu” (Mr Mukherjee’s nickname) two days away from formally entering Rashtrapati Bhavan.
However, Mr Mukherjee’s elder sister will not be able to witness the event.
“I cannot go as I have a fractured leg as also other age-related problems. My son will go,” said 83-year-old Annapurna Banerjee, sitting at her Kirnahar home.
However, Mr Mukherjee’s three younger sisters – Swagata Das Mukherjee, Krishna Chatterjee and Jharna Biswas – are already in Delhi, having boarded the Rajdhani Express on Sunday.
The president-elect’s son Abhijit, himself a Congress lawmaker from Nalhati in Birbhum, is already Delhi-bound.