Pranab Mukherjee makes Congress happy with his speech at RSS headquarters

Jun 08, 2018, 16:11 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Dishes out the party's ideology in a cogent speech on nationalism and patriotism to RSS swayamsevaks in Nagpur on Thursday

Pranab Mukherjee makes Congress happy with his speech at RSS headquarters
Former president Pranab Mukherjee with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur on Thursday. Pic/PTI

Former president and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee's speech at the RSS headquarters on Thursday has made the Congress very happy. The party has highlighted a symbolism in his speech that appealed to the participants of a training camp to be tolerant, non-violent and guardians of the diversity of the nation while reading out to them the universal definitions of nation, nationalism and patriotism that did not endorse the RSS version. And, not once in his entire speech did he mention the RSS.

The Congress reaction was in stark contrast to its earlier stance after Mukherjee created national furore by accepting an invitation to visit Nagpur. It accepted its mistake in opposing the leader's visit to the RSS headquarters. The former president's daughter, who is also a Congress spokesperson, had criticised her father's move, telling him that the words he spoke would be forgotten, but the pictures would remain forever for the benefit of the RSS.

Maharashtra's former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has worked with Mukherjee, told mid-day that it wasn't important what the ex-president said in Nagpur. "But, the symbolism in his speech is more important. It is more pertinent in view of the concerns that we face today, though he may not have expressed those concerns overtly at the RSS event," he said.

Chavan said no Congress leader of Mukherjee's stature had been on an RSS platform till date. "It was expected of the RSS to boost its legitimacy. But, Mukherjee did not distance himself from his ideological background. He did not get influenced by the RSS chief's speech," he said. Chavan said the event should be analysed for one more thing – the collective impact of the two main speakers. "While Mukherjee did not quit his position, Mohan Bhagwat, too, did not abandon his basic thought," he said.

Chavan said some references that the two speakers made in their address should also be seen in view of the BJP's all-influential duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. "Was there any message for Modi and Shah? What was the intention in some of the points made?" he said.

In Delhi, a Congress spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, heaped praise on Mukherjee for speaking his mind. "He spoke what the Congress wanted. He showed RSS a mirror to follow India's civilizational values, asking if RSS will change its path and accept sagacious advice."

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said Mukherjee's speech was more of a one-way sermon than a dialogue. "He said what everyone is saying. He himself had spoken this when he was president. I didn't think any strong political dosage needed to be given to RSS. He should have said what the liberals have been saying for the past four years. There was no novelty," he said. BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said both speeches were mature in thought. "Mukherjee gave an account of our illustrious history that the RSS is extremely proud of and tells everyone about. In fact, the event turned out to be a confluence of two thoughts."

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