Rajiv leader of hearts, Pranab like brother: Mamata
Although she felt "betrayed" by the Congress leadership many a time, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee describes the late Rajiv Gandhi as "the leader of our hearts" and Pranab Mukherjee as her brother.
Recalling her days in the Congress when she was attacked by alleged Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists at a rally in 1991 in Kolkata, she says, "Rajiv ji, the leader of our hearts, took up the responsibility of paying for my treatment. He sent people to ask if I wanted to go to the United States for further treatment."
Even as Banerjee's current relationship with ally Congress has turned sour, she treats Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as her elder brother.
"I have always respected him and my relationship with him is that of an elder brother and his kid sister," she says recalling that when Mukherjee was once sacked by the party and formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress in 1986, she had repeatedly requested Gandhi to take him back into the party fold.
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Image: West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
'Rajiv Gandhi's assassination shattered me'
In her autobiographical account in the recently published book 'My Unforgettable Memories', she says that on hearing the news of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991 she was so shattered that she could neither eat nor speak to anybody for a week after that.
"I was orphaned all over again, for the second time in my life since my father's death.....I used to shut myself in the room and cry".
Even after two decades of Rajiv's death, the firebrand leader says she still feels his presence in every step she takes as the charismatic Gandhi scion had touched a chord that still plays the symphony of her life.
"Whenever I face a problem, whenever something upsets me, unknowingly my eyes seek out Rajivji's photograph on the wall in my room," the chief minister says.
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Image: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee watches her activists before she speaks during a protest rally in Singur, West Bengal
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
'I've special feelings for Rajiv Gandhi's family'
Banerjee says whenever it came to the former prime minister she was always led by very strong sentiments and had "special feelings" for his family.
She even goes on to say that it was the void created in the party after Rajiv's death which forced her exit from the Congress leading to the foundation of Trinamool Congress.
"Unfortunately for us, after Rajiv Gandhi passed away, there was no one in the party who could understand our feelings, who could see where we were coming from. Unknown to all of us, Trinamool's message was tucked away in this misfortune," she writes.
On her days as a Congress leader till 1997, Banerjee says she often got upset with the behaviour of the party leadership.
"On the one hand, we were being routinely harassed and tortured by the CPI(M) and the police, while on the other, we were insulted by the party (Congress) leadership.
Therefore, we decided not to listen to the diktats from Delhi any longer," Banerjee recalls.
Image: Mamata Banerjee with Sonia Gandhi.