Saturday, 09 June 2018 | PNS | New Delhi–
The reverberation of former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit on Thursday to the RSS headquarters and his speech to the graduating RSS cadre there has continued in the political corridor amid wild speculation about his future political moves.
In what is seen as a noteworthy reaction, BJP patriarch LK Advani, who rarely comments on any contemporary issues, described Pranab’s speech and his visit to the RSS headquarters as significant events in the contemporary Indian history. Advani’s reaction was put up on the official website of the BJP even as majority of senior BJP leadership maintained a curious silence on the issue.
The political circles remained abuzz with subtle suggestions that the 82-year-old former Congressman — who after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, could have even be a candidate for the post of Prime Minister — may even be a consensus nominee for the PM post, acceptable to the Opposition and not opposed by the present ruling dispensation. The news highlighted by more than one TV channel was source-based, but it was enough to set the social media on fire.
Pranab’s visit to the RSS head office in Nagpur came against serious reservation of ‘secular circles’, but he silenced them by highlighting their concerns on “intolerance” and “pluralism”. At the same time, Pranab also kept his hosts in good humour by describing RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar “as the great son of Mother India”.
The controversy that preceded Pranab’s visit to Nagpur has kept dogging him even though he is back to Delhi. On Friday, a “morphed picture” showing Pranab in RSS-style of salutation appeared on social media. RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidhya blamed “divisive political forces” for first trying to make former President “refrain” from attending its event and then for posting a morphed photograph showing him in a prayer position identified with the organisation.
“Some divisive political forces have posted a morphed photo of former President Pranab Mukherjee standing in a prayer position with a folded hand during recitation of Sangha prarthana (prayer) at Thursday’s RSS function at Nagpur,” Vaidya said in a statement. Pranab’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee, a Congress leader who had opposed his visit to the RSS event, had highlighted the photograph and said, “See, this is exactly what I was fearing & warned my father about. Not even a few hours have passed, but BJP/RSS dirty tricks dept is at work in full swing!”.
On Thursday, Pranab addressed the RSS cadre passing ‘Tritiya Shiksha Varg’ (three year graduation course), one of the most important milestones in the life of an RSS cadre. Only the third-year graduates in the Sangh can become RSS pracharaks or full-timers.
Pranab, who has been for long the main strategist of the Congress and two successive UPA Governments, has been lauded by Advani for accepting the invitation of the Hindutva organisation.
The senior BJP leader also praised RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for inviting him, saying there was significant concord and resonance in the views expressed by both of them.
As a lifelong ‘swayamsevak’ of the RSS, BJP veteran Advani said he believed that Pranab and Bhagwat have truly set a praiseworthy example of dialogue transcending ideological affiliations and differences.
“Both of them highlighted the essential unity of India, which accepts and respects all diversities, including the pluralism of faiths,” Advani said in a statement.
Advani, who has served as the BJP president for the longest period, expressed his happiness over the RSS under Bhagwat expanding and intensifying its efforts to reach out to various sections of the nation in the spirit of dialogue.
“Such conversations, conducted in the spirit of openness and mutual respect, will surely help in creating a much-needed atmosphere of tolerance, harmony and cooperation to build an India of our common dreams,” he said.
Praising Pranab, Advani said he showed grace and goodwill in accepting the RSS invite as he recalled his long association with him.
“His own reflective nature, combined with his long and varied experience in public life, has made him a statesman who strongly believes in the necessity of dialogue and cooperation among people of various ideological and political backgrounds,” he said of Pranab.
The former President’s decision to accept the RSS invite to address its members had drawn a lot of adverse responses from senior Congress leaders and other political parties which had reservations against the Nagpur outfit.
But shortly after Pranab delivered his written speech at the RSS headquarters, he drew praise from Congress leaders as well as from those associated with the RSS.