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Pranab Mukherjee to attend RSS event despite criticism to reciprocate Bhagwat’s gesture

Pranab Mukherjee may send a message of peace and harmony at RSS event even as Congress leaders request the former president to reconsider his decision.

india Updated: May 30, 2018 21:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pranab Mukherjee,Mohan Bhagwat,Rashtrapati Bhavan
A file photo of former president Pranab Mukherjee(PTI File Photo)

Former President Pranab Mukherjee decided to attend an RSS event in Nagpur after Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat personally invited him, his associates maintained.

When Mukherjee was President, he twice invited Bhagwat, and the RSS chief accepted both times; this time, he possibly felt that the gesture should be reciprocated, one of his associates said, asking not to be identified.

“Apart from Bhagwat meeting Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan, two senior RSS functionaries from Nagpur went all the way to Miriti in West Bengal’s Birbhum district to celebrate Durga puja with him in 2016,” added another associate on condition of anonymity.

A person familiar with Mukherjee’s plans maintained that the critics should wait and listen to Mukherjee’s speech on June 7. “He is likely to send a strong message of peace, brotherhood and harmony from the platform of the RSS. His message will definitely show Mukherjee’s mettle,” the person said, asking not to be identified.

Most political parties, be it the Congress or the CPI(M), have maintained a silence on the issue, dubbing it as a personal choice of the former President, who is now, by all counts, a private citizen. But that didn’t stop several Opposition MPs from either slamming his move or appealing Mukherjee to reconsider his decision.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday that he would have never accepted such an invitation and urged Mukherjee to talk about the flaws in the RSS ideology in Nagpur. “He has achieved tremendous fame, power and positions in politics. The only substantial thing for him to achieve is Bharat Ratna,” quipped an Opposition leader.

Another senior leader, referring to the recent elections in Malaysia in which 92 year-old Mahathir Bin Mohammad reclaimed power, said, “Mahathir has reinvigorated many Indian political lives.”

At least three senior Congress leaders — Jairam Ramesh, Ramesh Chennithala and CK Jaffer Sharief — wrote to Mukherjee asking him to reconsider his decision. “I find his decision shocking. It goes against all that he has stood for, talked about and all that he has told us,” said Ramesh. Sharief dubbed Mukherjee’s decision “surprising and shocking”. Chennithala reminded Mukherjee that “the communal outfit has been trying to divide the country on religious lines and to run the incumbent government by remote control”.

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

First Published: May 30, 2018 21:19 IST