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Congress tried to bully Pranab Mukherjee into not attending RSS event: Piyush Goyal

Union minister Piyush Goyal said RSS’ outreach to former president Pranab Mukherjee was a “normal thing”, similar to contact programmes conducted by the BJP.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2018 08:30 IST
Kumar Uttam and Prashant Jha
Kumar Uttam and Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,Pranab Mukherjee RSS event,Pranab Mukherjee
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal during a press conference in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

The Congress tried to bully former President Pranab Mukherjee into not attending the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event in Nagpur last week and tried to make a virtue out of its opposition later, senior Union minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.

“They [Congress] realised that despite the outrage, Pranab da is such a practical person that they could not bully him into not going. When they realised he is a man of his own convictions, they tried to make a virtue out of their opposition,” Goyal said in an interview to Hindustan Times.

The Maharashtra leader who handles the railway and coal ministries, besides having the additional charge of finance and corporate affairs, also made light of the Shiv Sena’s claim that the RSS may project Mukherjee as the prime ministerial candidate in 2019 if the Bharatiya Janata Party falls short of a majority. “Do you believe everything you read in the paper and everything that everybody says?” Goyal asked.

The minister said RSS’ outreach to Mukherjee was a “normal thing”, similar to contact programmes conducted by the BJP. Goyal said its chief Mohan Bhagwat regularly met leaders of different political parties, as well as people from different walks of life.

“As Mohan ji rightly said, Pranab da will be Pranab da, and RSS will be RSS. But coming to the RSS headquarters doesn’t change him. Mahatma Gandhi came to RSS’ shakha. Did it change Mahatma Gandhi?” Goyal said.

He said the BJP was “not concerned” about Opposition parties coming together and that BJP?would fight with an aim to win 300 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, even if the party had to work towards getting 51% vote share.

Goyal said the Kairana bypoll in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP lost to a united opposition last month, showed that four opposing parties together could only manage a relatively small winning margin of 40,000 votes. “This was when Narendra Modi did not campaign, Amit Shah did not handle the campaign and no minister visited,” Goyal said.

“It is a very, very serious introspection that the Opposition will have to do, whether they were really able to get the arithmetic or are they actually losing voters along the way,” said the minister.

Goyal said the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance in Karnataka has already started showing cracks and it was in a way “good” for the country to see what kind of an alliance is proposed as an alternate to the Modi government. The Congress and the JD(S) came together hours after the BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the Karnataka polls.

Goyal described the alliance as one with “no agenda”. “There is nothing. It is just to keep the BJP out,” he said. Goyal said that in the past, the Congress had pulled down governments led by HD Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Chandra Shekhar (all former prime ministers) and is becoming a party that nobody trusts, referring to short-lived coalition governments of the 1990s.

First Published: Jun 13, 2018 07:33 IST