A day after former President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to swayamsevaks at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, BJP veteran L K Advani described the visit and “his illuminating exposition of the noble idea and ideals of Indian nationalism” as “a significant event in our country’s contemporary history”.
Praising RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat for inviting Mukherjee to address the graduating swayamsevaks and the former President “for his grace and goodwill in accepting the invitation”, Advani, in a statement Friday, said: “As a lifelong swayamsevak of the RSS, I believe that these two national leaders have truly set a praiseworthy example of dialogue transcending ideological affiliations and differences.”
“There was significant concord and resonance in the views expressed by both leaders. Both of them highlighted the essential unity of India, which accepts and respects all diversities including the pluralism of faiths.”
“I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing, and working closely with, Shri Pranab Babu in and outside Parliament. His own reflective nature, combined with his long and varied experience in public life, have made him a statesman who strongly believes in the necessity of dialogue and cooperation among people of various ideological and political backgrounds,” he said.
“I am happy that, under the leadership of Shri Bhagwatji, the RSS has expanded and intensified its efforts to reach out to various sections of our 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,” Advani said.
In his address Thursday, Mukherjee told swayamsevaks that “the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance… Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us… India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy. It is the perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions… live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bharatiya and have no enemies.”
Emphasising that “dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them”, Mukherjee said: “We may argue, we may agree, or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve complex problems.”
Mukherjee’s acceptance of the RSS invitation had generated tremendous anxiety within the Congress, the party to which he belonged before becoming President. In fact, several senior party leaders had expressed surprise, disbelief and even criticised his decision to visit the RSS headquarters.
In 2005, Advani had come under attack from his own — both within the BJP and the RSS — when on a visit to Pakistan, he praised Muhammad Ali Jinnah, calling him “secular”. This did not go down well at home where Jinnah and his two-nation theory are held responsible for the Partition. Advani had to eventually step down as president of the BJP.