Pranab Mukherjee and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat meet for dinner before former president’s speech

Former president Pranab Mukherjee is in Nagpur to address the valedictory function of the RSS’s third-year officers’ training camp today, the move his daughter and many Congress leaders have scoffed at.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2018 14:53 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pranab Mukherjee,RSS,RSS Speech
Former President Pranab Mukherjee arrives at Nagpur Airport on Wednesday. He is in the city to attend an RSS event on Thursday.(HT photo)

Former president Pranab Mukherjee, who arrived in Nagpur on Wednesday evening, hosted a dinner for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat even as his daughter disapproved of his decision to attend the saffron outfit’s function.

Mukherjee is slated to address the valedictory function of the RSS’s third-year officers’ training camp at its headquarters in Reshimbagh on Thursday.

According to RSS sources, Bhagwat and a group of senior swayamsevaks went to the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday evening to greet Mukherjee. The RSS chief and the former president spent over two hours together. A lunch between the two men was cancelled .

The former president is learnt to have inquired about the proposed RSS programme and other details during the discussion, sources said.

Mukherjee’s surprise move to address the RSS event triggered a controversy with his daughter and Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee taking to Twitter to warn him of the BJP’s “dirty tricks department” .

She wrote that the veteran leader’s decision had given the BJP and its ideological parent, RSS, “full handle” to plant rumours and false stories. She also cautioned her father that his speech will be “will be forgotten”, but the visuals “will be circulated with fake statements”.

Several Opposition leaders also appealed to the former president to reconsider for the sake of secularism. But Mukherjee has said that people should wait to hear what he has to say, while his associates have said he will send a strong message of peace and harmony.

The former president had said 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.”

The RSS has defended the decision to call Mukherjee, saying the Sangh has had a history of engaging with and inviting people with diverse views, citing examples of Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar attending the RSS event.

Some Congress leaders have indicated they are okay with Mukherjee’s decision. Their stand is that Mukherjee is a private citizen and free to go where he wants.

First Published: Jun 07, 2018 11:14 IST