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Pranab Mukherjee’s RSS date: BJP hails great speech, Congress says mirror shown to Sangh outfit

Trinamool Congress said it was shocked by former president Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to speak at the RSS headquarters, while the CPM picked holes in the speech.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2018 13:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pranab Mukherjee,RSS,BJP
Former president Pranab Mukherjee speaks as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat adjusts the mike during the closing ceremony of ‘Tritiya Varsha Sangh Shiksha Varg’, an (RSS) event to mark the conclusion of a three-year training camp for Swayamsevaks, in Nagpur on June 7, 2018. (PTI)

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav tweeted his appreciation of former president Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at an RSS event calling it ‘great’.

“Great address by Dr Pranab Mukharjee at Nagpur. His address and Dr Bhagwat’s address are in a way complementary to each other. Nation First is the core message of both,” Madhav tweeted.

The RSS said that former president Pranab Mukherjee ‘reminded the glorious history of the nation’ while highlighting inclusiveness, pluralism and unity in diversity as foundation of India.

The mood in the Congress camp, however, kept changing. It started with stunned silence over the former president’s decision to attend the event, changed into ‘anguish’ expressed by a few leaders, including Mukherjee’s daughter, and finally came the sigh of relief after the former president had delivered a sharp speech.

In what many analysts saw as a strong message to the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mukherjee said, “the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance.”

In his 35-minute speech delivered in English, Mukherjee said, “Secularism and inclusion is a matter of faith for us. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one nation.”

Congress leaders started the day by expressing anguish over the former president’s presence at the RSS headquarters.

Ahmed Patel in a tweet that many believe was at the behest of Sonia Gandhi wrote: “Didn’t expect this from Pranab Da.”

This came hours after Congress leader and Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee had warned him against attending the function, saying his speech would be forgotten but the visuals will remain and be misused by the BJP’s ‘dirty tricks department’.

Another senior Congress leader Anand Sharma also tweeted his ‘anguish’ saying, “The images of Pranab Da, veteran leader and ideologue at RSS Headquarters have anguished millions of Congress workers and all those who believed in pluralism, diversity and the foundational values of the Indian Republic.”

But, as Pranab Mukherjee’s speech unfolded, the mood in Congress changed.

Anand Sharma told a news channel, “Nobody in the Congress had any doubt about Mr Mukherjee’s clarity, courage, conviction and his commitment to the idea of India. The message that he has given is of an India that is inclusive and tolerant, peaceful, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural. Is the RSS willing to absorb is the question I had raised and that is still in my mind.”

Emboldened by the speech, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala hailed the former president for showing the “mirror of truth” to the RSS.

Addressing an unusual late night press briefing, Surjewala praised the veteran party leader for reminding the RSS of India’s “pluralism’, ‘tolerance’, ‘secularism’ and ‘inclusiveness’ as an article of faith and soul of the country”.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who had earlier requested Mukherjee to show a mirror to the RSS, lauded him for highlighting Congress’ ideology during his speech. “Happy that Mr Pranab Mukherjee told the RSS what is right about Congress’ ideology. It was his way of saying what is wrong about RSS’ ideology,” Chidambaram tweeted.

But, not all were happy with the speech. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “He would have done well to remind the RSS of its own history - banned thrice by Congress governments, first time by Sardar Patel, following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.”

The CPM general secretary said in the “history capsule” delivered by Mukherjee, the absence of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassination spoke volumes.

West Bengal’s Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned the need for Mukherjee to go to the RSS’s Nagpur headquarters at all.

“More than what he said, what is important is who he is telling all this. Where is he saying this? What was the need?” said Chowdhury, who is considered close to Mukherjee.

Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said, “We feel his attending the event is undesirable. I am shocked at what Pranabda has done.”

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 11:05 IST