After the initial surprise, some Congress leaders on Tuesday spoke on former President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to address RSS trainees at its Nagpur headquarters as the chief guest, and the opinion is sharply divided. While senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said Mukherjee cannot go for the event if he is “dedicated to the Congress ideology”, Salman Khurshid said the party must have faith in the former President — “trust him not just for his true allegiance to the idea of India, but also for being sagacious and wiser than us”.
Officially, the party remained silent, preferring to wait and watch. Some leaders hoped Mukherjee, a Congressman all his life, would deliver a strong message on secularism from the RSS platform. Some others were not convinced.
“Of all the people, Pranab Mukherjee (is) going there…if he is ideologically dedicated to the Congress party, I don’t think he can afford to go. Because the ideology of the Congress is totally different from the ideology of RSS,” Moily told The Indian Express.
“There is no such thing as platonic love of a Congressman with the RSS,” he said. “If he is really dedicated, honestly dedicated to the Congress ideology, he cannot go…. Who am I to influence him?…. Any Congress person in heart….(who is) dedicated to the Congress ideology cannot participate in any programme of the RSS at its headquarters.”
Khurshid, on the other hand, asked if the Congress cannot trust Mukherjee, “who can we trust?” He said Mukherjee has not said anything which favours the RSS.
“I think he has a conscious sense of having held a high office where he was accessible for everyone. He didn’t pick and choose friends and foes. He was accessible to everyone, which the President of India should be, despite your personal views,” Khurshid said. “I hope the present President will follow the same line, and it appears that he is following the same line. In that case, when someone approaches you, and you at the level of President and ex-President…you do not close the doors for anyone.”
Asked about Mukherjee’s decision at the party’s official briefing on Tuesday, Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan merely said, “The event has not happened. I have also come to know about it from the media, and I am waiting for further details. At present, I have no comments to offer.”
Khurshid said, “People may read all kinds of things into it (Mukherjee’s decision to attend the RSS event), but I think it will be unfair. I think if there is some person we can trust, it is the person we made the President of India. We must trust him — trust him not just for his true allegiance to the idea of India, but trust him also for being sagacious and wiser than us. He was the wisest of us in our party, and that is why we picked him as the President.”
Asked what message Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS headquarters will give to the party, he said, “He is not a Congress leader; he has not joined the Congress again. He has kept his statesmanship…. I believe he has kept himself above party politics…and there is no harm (in that).”