This is the first time when Pranab Mukherjee, known as among the biggest critics of the RSS, is attending an event of the right-wing outfit.
All eyes are on former President and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee who will address the 700 new recruits of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at its headquarters in Nagpur today evening. This will be the first time when Mukherjee, known as among the biggest critics of the Sangh, will attend an event of the right-wing and share dais with sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. His decision to accept the RSS invite for its Sangh Shiksha Varg (the graduation ceremony) had taken many Congress leaders by shock, and given ammunition to the BJP to target the grand old party for its ‘political untouchability’.
The leaders who have been asking Mukherjee not to attend include his daughter Sharmistha. In a series of tweets last evening, Sharmishtha warned her father that his speech at the RSS event will be forgotten and images will be misused by the BJP and RSS for their political gains. “The speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain & those will be circulated with fake statements.”
As per the itinerary, the former President who arrived here last evening spent the night at the Raj Bhavan and met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat over dinner, His itenary also includes a visit to RSS founder KB Hedgewar’s residence before attending the event at Reshambagh ground. Mukherjee will leave the Raj Bhawan at 5:10 pm and will reach the venue at 5:30 pm. At 6:30 PM, he will address the RSS cadre and will fly back to Delhi today itself.
According to reports, Mukherjee during his stint as the President of India between 2012 and 2017, had invited Bhagwat many times at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The two maintain a very cordial relation and had also met many times in the last one year. People privy to these meeting say that they never talked about politics and always brainstormed on promoting the social values.
Here are some reactions to Pranab Mukherjee’s upcoming speech at RSS event in Nagpur:
Sharmishtha Mukherjee, Congress leader and daughter of Pranab Mukherjee: Hope Pranab Mukherjee now realises from todays’ incident, how BJP dirty tricks dept operates. Even RSS wouldn’t believe that you are going to endorse its views in your speech. But the speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain & those will be circulated with fake statements. Pranab Mukherjee by going to Nagpur, you are giving BJP/RSS full handle to plant false stories, spread falls rumours as today and making it somewhat believable. And this is just the beginning!
Ratan Sharda, RSS ideologue: Why tweet when you can talk, Sharmishtha ji? He is your father. Is it to assure Queen Mother and Yuvraj of Congress that you are loyal? Even Pranab da has been firm Congress troubleshooter all his life. Have faith. Why Congressmen suspect their people so much? Stop apartheid!
Ahmed Patel, Congress leader: I did not expect this from Pranab da!
Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister: There should be an exchange of views and political untouchability was outdated. We should meet each other, talk to each other, respect views. The notion of political untouchability is outdated. Those who practice this say others are communal but they are themselves communal.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena spokersperson: One may have ideological differences with RSS, but it is a nationalist organisation. If they invite the former President, there should be no controversy around it. When Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyar can go to Pakistan and speak to anti-India outfits and other Congress members talk to outfits like Hurriyat, then nothing wrong in Pranab da meeting RSS cadre.
P Chidambaram, Congress leader and former Union minister: Now that he has accepted the invitation, there is no point in debating why he accepted it. The more important thing to say is, sir you have accepted invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology.
Senior Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala: I request you (Pranab Mukherjee) to reconsider your decision to attend the RSS meet on June 7.
Ripun Bora, Assam Congress chief: I urge Pranab Mukherjee to reconsider his decision of attending the RSS conference as it will have far reaching repercussions and negative impact in the socio-political scenario of India.
Rakesh Sinha, RSS ideologue: Today RSS has over 50,000 shakhas at over 37,000 places in the country, 1.70 lakh socio-economic projects… thousands people are working for the nation after leaving their home and family. There are two type of discourse in country – one is based on binary and bitterness; second one that RSS has been trying to infuse in democracy is equality, you learn to listen people who are you critic. The Congress and other organisations are suffering from ‘vikhandan’… they believe in creating perception and criticising organisations and then create polarisation. This is basically for Muslim vote banks.
Manmohan Vaidya, joint secretary of RSS: The outrage amongst certain sections of the political class on former President’s acceptance of an invitation to be the chief guest for the concluding ceremony of the RSS’s Tritiya Varsh Training programme smacks of intellectual intolerance.
Sushilkumar Shinde, Congress leader and former Union minister: Pranab Mukherjee dedicated his life to secularism. Even if goes to RSS, he isn’t going to change his ideology. I just hope that he delivers a message of secularism to them.