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Pranab Mukherjee on accepting RSS invite: ‘Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur’

Former president Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled attend a convocation of the RSS on June 7 in Nagpur.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2018 20:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pranab Mukherjee,Nagpur,RSS
Former President Pranab Mukherjee will attend an RSS event in Nagpur.(PTI File Photo)

Responding to the furore over his decision to attend an RSS event in Nagpur, former president Pranab Mukherjee has said he will express his views during his address on the occasion.

“I will say whatever I have to in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls but I have not responded to any of them,” Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Bengali newspaper Anandabazar Patrika.

Mukherjee decided to attend the RSS event on June 7 after its chief Mohan Bhagwat personally invited him, according to his close aides, and his decision has led to a political storm.

Several Congress leaders have objected to his decision and have asked him to reconsider.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had said that had the RSS invited him to attend their function, he would not have gone to Nagpur.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram said he would have never accepted such an invitation and urged Mukherjee to talk about the flaws in the RSS ideology in Nagpur.

At least three senior Congress leaders — Jairam Ramesh, Ramesh Chennithala and CK Jaffer Sharief — wrote to Mukherjee asking him to reconsider his decision.

The former president was associated with the Congress throughout his political career and held several key ministerial berths, including finance and defence under multiple Congress regimes. But officials close to Mukherjee said that he has had a good rapport with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for several years despite the RSS’s links with the BJP.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), however, has said that it has a long history of engaging those with divergent views.

Manmohan Vaidya, joint general secretary of RSS, said through such outreach meetings, “we try to understand their work and contribution to society and tell them about the Sangh’s views, activities and achievements. We also discuss different national issues and exchange our views. On the basis of this, we invite them to visit and get a first-hand experience of the Sangh”.

A list of personalities whom RSS has invited to visit shakhas or preside over functions include political leaders and critics of the RSS, such as Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Jaiprakash Narayan and former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

“Everyone who comes may not join the Sangh, but it surely helps them to understand Sangh better,” said Vaidya.

CPI(M) politburo member Md. Salim, however, maintained that it was Mukherjee’s personal choice. “He is a private citizen and can go anywhere,” Salim said.

First Published: Jun 03, 2018 13:42 IST