After urging Congress party to look outside the Nehru-Gandhi family for its leadership, former President of India Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee has attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, highlighting the issue of freedom of expression within the party.
In an open letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi, Sharmistha Mukherjee expressed her concerns regarding the treatment she and her father have received from supporters of the Congress party since the publication of her book, ‘Pranab My Father: A Daughter Remembers.’ The book contains critical observations about Gandhi made in her father’s diaries.
Mukherjee begins by reminding Gandhi of the importance of freedom of expression, emphasizing that it involves not only praise but also the ability to tolerate criticism gracefully. She criticizes Gandhi for failing to uphold this value within his own party, citing the vicious trolling and abuse she has endured from Congress supporters on social media.
“Your favourite slogan of ‘Nafrat ke Bazaar me Mohabbat ki Dukan’ also seem to fall on deaf ears of your own followers as they unleash all their ‘Nafrat’ on anyone daring to criticize you,” she said in her post.
The letter recounts Mukherjee’s doubts regarding Gandhi’s leadership capabilities, particularly in light of Congress’s electoral defeats under his leadership. She asserts her right as a citizen and a Congress supporter to express her views on the party’s leadership, advocating for the exploration of fresh leadership beyond the Gandhi-Nehru family.
Mukherjee condemns the culture of sycophancy within the Congress party, where criticism of Gandhi or the Nehru-Gandhi family is met with hostility and abuse. She highlights a particularly egregious instance where a Congress supporter, allegedly associated with the party, used vile language to attack her and her father on social media.
Despite bringing the issue to the attention of senior Congress leaders, including Jairam Ramesh and Supriya Srinate, Mukherjee claims to have received no response or action taken against the perpetrator. She demands justice, both as a citizen and as a woman who has been subjected to character assassination and sexual abuse.
Mukherjee calls on Gandhi to fulfill his promise of ‘Nyay’ (justice) by taking action against those responsible for the abuse, including the individual named Naveen Shahi and others who supported his actions. She urges Gandhi to demonstrate that his commitment to justice is more than just an empty slogan.
The open letter serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing the Congress party, particularly regarding internal democracy, freedom of expression, and the need for inclusive leadership beyond traditional family dynasties. It underscores the importance of addressing these issues to rejuvenate and strengthen the party’s democratic credentials.
Here is the text of full open letter written by Sharmishtha Mukherjee to Rahul Gandhi.
Dear Mr. Rahul Gandhi
Since the publication of my book ‘Pranab My Father: A Daughter Remembers’ a month back, I and my father have been subjected to vicious and continuous trolling by your supporters on social media. The book contains some observations about you made in my fathers’ diaries which are not very complimentary. However, as you seem to be a torchbearer of Freedom of Expression, you should know that FoE involves not just praising someone, but also the ability to tolerate criticism gracefully. But you seem to have failed miserably to convince even your own followers of one of the most crucial Rights granted by our Constitution, which is also one of the core values of Congress. Your favourite slogan of ‘Nafrat ke Bazaar me Mohabbat ki Dukan’ also seem to fall on deaf ears of your own followers as they unleash all their ‘Nafrat’ on anyone daring to criticize you.
You may argue that FoE involves your followers’ rights to criticize me as well. Definitely it does. But FoE doesn’t give anyone any liberty to abuse using foul language. It is against Congress values as I understand it. Perhaps you are initiating some new Congress ‘culture’. But as you publicly claim to be the ‘upholder’ of tolerance and liberal values of Congress, I decided to bring to your notice the behaviour of your followers in case you haven’t noticed it as yet; not just vis a vis me, but vis a vis any of your real or imaginary opponents, including the media.
A few days ago on the sidelines of Jaipur Lit Fest, in an interview I expressed doubts regarding your ability to lead Congress. Under your leadership with you being the face of the campaign, Congress faced disastrous loss in two Lok Sabha elections with a third one hovering around the corner. While expressing my faith in Congress (I’m a die-hard Congressperson whether you believe it or not) saying it’s still the main opposition and still has a strong national presence, the time has come perhaps to look beyond Gandhi-Nehru family for leadership and being the fac of the Congress. I believe that as a citizen and as a Congress supporter it’s my democratic right to express my views about the party and about its leadership. While none can question your family’s contribution to the party and to the nation, and a grateful nation has paid its debt having 3 PMs and 5 CPs since independence from one family; and in my opinion, it’s time to move on and look for fresh leadership.
Since then, all hell has broken loose because in your followers mind, you and your family are synonymous with Congress without realising that Congress was and is far greater than any individual or a family. I and my father Shri Pranab Mukherjee, who, if you remember, was a senior leader of your party before becoming the President of India, have been subjected to vicious trolling by the Congress ‘supporters’, sometimes using the nastiest language. The main contention of your followers’ argument seems to be that the positons within Congress and Congress govts were doled out to my father by your family without any consideration of merits or his contribution to the party; and for that, generations to come should remain eternally grateful to your family without daring to raise any concern or criticism.
If your followers believe, and if you too want to create the impression that Congress is nothing but a personal Zamindari of the Gandhi-Nehru family; and the positions are doled out on the whims and fancies of your family just like the feudal lords, expecting in return servitude for generations, you are welcome to your ideas of what Congress is or should be, though I don’t abide by it. Perhaps that is what Congress has become now, and your followers are welcome to go on believing your feudal lord status.
But every limit was crossed yesterday when one of your alleged supporters called Naveen Shahi having X handle of @Naveen_Kr_Shahi who is followed by several senior Congress leaders like Pawan Khera, Ajay Maken, Srinivas BV and many other verified handles from INC Social Media dept. abused my father Shri Pranab Mukherjee and me in such a vile language that I feel nausea even to repeat it. In a series of tweets, he called me licentious, and repeatedly wrote the ‘Pranab’ was a ‘chu***, a licentious person, insinuating that he was a sexual pervert willing to accept even the dogs.
The screenshots of his tweets are attached herewith. Utterly shocked, I brought it to the notice of Jairam Ramesh, Supriya Srinate and even you by tagging all of you. However, as of the time of writing this letter, I neither got any reaction nor any action seems to have been taken against the person.
You are talking about Nyay. As an ordinary citizen of India, I demand Nyay from you as these vile abuses seem to have originated with someone having a formal or informal association with your organisation. I demand Nyay as a woman, who herself, and whose father (leaving aside the fact that he was a former President of India) have been subjected character assassination and the most vile abuses having sexual connotations. To show that you are serious about Nyay, please take action against this person Naveen Shahi, all the others who reacted positively to his abuses, against your social media head and your communication head for allowing this kind of language and abuses. Even if this person is not formally associated with your organisation, immediately register a police complaint against him as he is purportedly doing it in your support. Show that your promise of Nyay is not just an empty election slogan.
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