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Pranab Mukherjee arrives in Nagpur today to attend RSS event

The valedictory function of the RSS’s third-year officers’ training camp will be held on Thursday evening. Certain sections of the Congress have opposed the former president’s decision to accept an invite to the event because they believe it serves to legitimise the Hindutva fountainhead.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2018 19:14 IST
Pradip Maitra
Pradip Maitra
Hindustan Times, Nagpur
Pranab Mukherjee,RSS,Mohan Bhagwat
Former President Pranab Mukherjee being greeted by RSS functionaries upon his arrival at Nagpur.(HT Photo)

Former president Pranab Mukherjee will arrive in Nagpur on Wednesday evening to attend a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event amid criticism from opposition parties over his decision to accept the invite.

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 sources, he will stay for two nights at the governor house before leaving for the national capital on Friday noon.

Around 700 swayamsevaks from places across the country will participate in the camp, also known as the Sangh Shiksha Varga (Sangh training class). The RSS said it had invited the former president in keeping with a tradition of calling eminent people to the annual event.

The Congress leader’s decision to accept the invite has created a flutter in his party, with certain sections stating that doing so is akin to legitimising the Hindutva fountainhead. Mukherjee was a minister in almost every Congress government elected from the time Indira Gandhi was the prime minister.

However, another section in the Congress felt that bridging the political divide was the need of the hour in a democracy so fragmented that it even hurts national interests at times.

Senior swayamsevaks said there was nothing odd about Mukherjee accepting the invite, considering that he had called RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to the Rashtrapati Bhavan during his tenure as president “despite their ideological differences”. He had also invited top RSS leaders to his book launch in Delhi earlier this year.

Atul Pingle, prachar pramukh of the RSS (Vidarbha region), said Mukherjee was invited to the RSS headquarters for a first-hand look at the organisation’s work because he had often evinced interest in its functioning.

Former RSS spokesman and ideologue MG Vaidya pointed out that this was not the first time “a prominent figure from outside” would be attending an event organised by the RSS. “In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi attended a Sangh Shibir at Wardha and held discussions on the country’s future with RSS founder Dr KB Hedgewar,” he said, adding that Mukherjee’s acceptance of their invite sends out a message that adversaries are not necessarily enemies.

“This also proves that RSS is not a political organisation,” he said.

In an article written for Sangh mouthpiece Tarun Bharat, RSS additional general secretary Dr Manmohan Vaidya praised Mukherjee for accepting the invitation to Nagpur and dubbed both the Congress and the Left as “intolerants”.

As per information reaching here, a small team led by Sangh city head Rajesh Loya will receive Mukherjee at the Nagpur airport on Wednesday evening. He is expected to spend four hours – from 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm – at the RSS headquarters. It is yet to be seen if the former president will visit the Smruti Mandir, the memorial of RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, which is located in the same venue.

Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama, former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Rajabhau Khobragade and veteran journalist Arun Shourie are some of the prominent personalities who attended RSS events in the past.

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 12:27 IST