Former president and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee is all set to address the valedictory function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) Sangh Shiksha Varg — a training camp for the volunteers — at the headquarters in Nagpur on Thursday.
The "secular patriarch's" decision to accept the Sangh's invitation has evoked a mixed response with some crying ideological betrayal while the other seeing no harm in it. Meanwhile, Mukherjee broke his silence on the issue earlier this week and said that whatever he has to say, he will say in Nagpur only. ""Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls, but I haven't responded to anyone yet," Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Bengali newspaper Anandabazar Patrika.
On Wednesday, the former president's daughter, Sharmishta Mukherjee disapproved of his decision and cautioned her father saying he was giving the BJP and the Sangh a handle to plant false stories as his "speech will be forgotten" but "visuals will remain".
Hope @CitiznMukherjee now realises from todays’ incident, how BJP dirty tricks dept operates. Even RSS wouldn’t believe that u r going 2 endorse its views in ur speech. But the speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain & those will be circulated with fake statements. 1/2
— Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) June 6, 2018
.@CitiznMukherjee By going 2 Nagpur, u r giving BJP/RSS full handle 2 plant false stories, spread falls rumours as 2day & making it somewhat believable. And this is just d beginning! 2/2
— Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) June 6, 2018
Here is a look how others have reacted to it so far:
'Didn't expect this from Pranab Da'
Senior Congress leader and trusted aide of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel tweeted on Wednesday retweeted Sharmistha's tweet and said, "Did not expect this from Pranab Da." Patel's retweet was seen as a signal that the party high command too disapproves of former president attending the RSS event, media reports said.
RSS 'trying to shed its image of an unregistered, unaccountable hydra-headed monster'
In a column which appeared in Firstpost, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera wrote that by inviting an intellectual like Mukherjee, who vehemently opposed all that the RSS stands for, the Sangh is attempting to "mainstream itself and shed its image of an unregistered, unaccountable hydra-headed monster". Hitting out at the RSS, Khera said: "Sangh has been an over-rated organisation that basks in notions of greatness which it never earned and wallows in victimhood which it never suffered from."
Free to accept or reject any invitation, says Ramachandra Guha
Speaking in support of Mukherjee, historian Ramachandra Guha said the former president was free to accept or reject any invitation he received. However, he lent a word of caution to Mukherjee and said that in the age of fake news, he should release the full text of his speech in the public domain as soon as the speech is delivered.
Pranab Mukherjee is free to accept or reject any invitation he gets. However, in this age of fake news he should make the full and authorised text of his lecture to RSS cadres at Nagpur available to the public as soon as it is delivered. — Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) June 7, 2018
'Not wrong', says Sushil Kumar Shinde
Senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde on Sunday said former Mukherjee accepting the invite to attend an RSS event was "not wrong" as the latter was a secular person and a very good thinker.
"Pranab Mukherjee is a secular person. He will always put forth a secular view which he will do there (at the RSS event) as well. He is a very good thinker, and his going there and speaking on that platform is very important," Shinde said. He said that Mukherjee accepting the invite was not wrong and "we would be more than pleased" if his thoughts bring some improvement in the RSS.
'Sir, go there and tell Sangh what is wrong with its ideology', P Chidambaram
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram suggested Mukherjee should go and tell the Sangh what is wrong with its ideology. "Now that he has accepted the invitation, there is no point debating why he did so. The more important thing to say is, 'Sir you have accepted the invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology'," he said when asked about the former president accepting the RSS invite.
Mukherjee's decision a 'rude shock': Ramesh Chennithala, Congress
On 30 May, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala sent a letter to Mukherjee requesting him to refrain from attending the event. In the letter, Chennithala, also a leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, said Mukherjee's decision to attend the function had come as a "rude shock" to secular minds of the country.
"Being one of the tallest leaders of the great Indian National Congress, which has been responsible for preserving the secular fabric of this country, your decision has invited unparalleled disgruntlement among the rank and file of the Congress Party," the letter said.
Outrage over Mukherjee's decision is 'unseemly', says Manmohan Vaidya, RSS joint general secretary
Calling the outrage over the former president attending the RSS event as "unseemly", RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya, in a Firstpost column, wrote, that RSS invite revealed Congress' hypocrisy. "The intellectual world of Bharat is dominated by the people with some sort of ‘communist’ colour. And either because of the lack of original intellectual thinkers in Congress and other political parties based on individual/ family, territory or caste identity, or they have outsourced their ‘intellectual space’ to people with communist or left background. Though they talk of liberalism, democracy and freedom of expression, they invariably are seen exhibiting the communist ideological intolerance, intellectual untouchability and exclusion," Vaidya wrote in an article for Firstpost.
'Did not expect this of Pranab da': Ahmed Patel, Congress
Responding to Mukherjee's decision, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat Ahmed Patel expressed his dismay and said he did not "expect this" of the senior Congress leader.
I did not expect this from Pranab da ! https://t.co/VBqXZ8x7SE
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) June 6, 2018
'RSS organisation of nationalists, not Pakistan's ISI' Union minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari on 29 May welcomed Mukherjee's decision and said it is a "good start" and "political untouchability" is an outdated concept. Gadkari, the Lok Sabha MP from Nagpur, also said the RSS was not Pakistan's ISI, but an organisation of nationalists.
Salman Khurshid backs Mukherjee
However, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid urged people to have faith in the "wise" ex-president. “Trust him not just for his true allegiance to the idea of India, but also for being sagacious and wiser than us", Khurshid said as per an Indian Express report.
Those opposing represent ideology of intolerance, says BJP national general secretary
BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said that those opposing Mukherjee's decision to participate in the RSS program represent an ideology of intolerance.
People who are opposing Pranab Mukherjee's visit to RSS program are infact representing the ideology of Intolerance. In no way it is going to help the democratic dialogue in the country.@CitiznMukherjee — P Muralidhar Rao (@PMuralidharRao) June 6, 2018
Mukherjee arrived in Nagpur on Wednesday to attend the RSS event on Thursday.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2018 14:08 PM