Will say whatever I have at RSS event: Pranab Mukherjee
Days after his decision to attend an RSS event triggered a political storm, former president Pranab Mukherjee has responded, asserting he'll say whatever he has to at the event. "I've received several letters, requests and calls, but I haven't responded," he told media. Many leaders feel the Congress patriarch's attendance will be bad for party optics, considering the continuous ideological battle between the parties.
What's the controversy about?
RSS has invited Mukherjee to address the Tritiya Varsh Varg at its Nagpur headquarters on June 7. Mukherjee, seen as a secular leader who has held several key ministerial positions in different Congress regimes, accepting the invitation was bound to raise eyebrows, considering the group has been accused of spreading communalism. However, he is known to share personal ties with RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Uproar among several senior Congress leaders
Congress leaders M Veerappa Moily and P Chidambaram vehemently protested the decision. The latter requested him to speak on flaws in the RSS' ideology. At least three senior leaders- CK Jaffer Sharief, Jairam Ramesh and Ramesh Chennithala- wrote to Mukherjee, urging him to reconsider. Even CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury chimed in, saying if it was him, he would never have accepted.
Nevertheless, Mukherjee's decision found a few takers in the Congress
Not everyone in Congress is upset with Mukherjee's decision. Spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said this isn't an "indication of his beliefs." "Judge him by what he says and his established beliefs in 50 years of political life." Sushil Kumar Shinde agreed. "There will be no change in his behavior by going there." Salman Khurshid asked the party to have faith in the 'wise' Mukherjee.
According to RSS, frequent meetings between Bhagwat and Mukherjee helped
Contrarily, RSS expressed elation at Mukherjee's acceptance of the invitation. RSS reaches out to "influential people from different walks of social life and opinion makers," and exchanges ideas with them for the country's development, they said. Such personalities include critics like Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, JP Narayan and APJ Abdul Kalam. Reports suggested BJP leader Nitin Gadkari facilitated several meetings between Bhagwat and Mukherjee.
It all boils down to what Mukherjee says at event
There's speculation that Mukherjee, in accepting RSS' invite, is actually planning to speak on the "real sense" of nationalism, which will in all likelihood be a critique of the outfit's "exclusivist" view. Eventually, it all boils down to what he says at the gathering.