Unfazed by the controversy surrounding his acceptance of an RSS invite, former President Pranab Mukherjee said he would respond to the requests urging to reconsider his decision in his address at the organisation’s Nagpur headquarters.
In his first remarks over accepting an invite to an RSS event, the former president was quoted by Bengali newspaper Anandabazar Patrika as saying, “Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls, but I haven’t responded to anyone yet.”
The RSS has invited Mukherjee as the chief guest at the concluding function of Sangh Shiksha Varg, an annual training camp, meant for the third year recruits in the organisation. Mukherjee will address the workers on June 7 in Nagpur.
While the Congress questioned Mukherjee’s acceptance, the BJP and RSS welcomed the move. “Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s acceptance to attend RSS event in Nagpur sends a message to the country that on vital issues there should be dialogue and adversaries are not enemies. Questions raised on RSS-Hindutva is being answered by his acceptance of the invitation,” RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha said.
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Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram urged him to tell the RSS what is wrong with their ideology. “Now that he has accepted the invitation, there is no point in debating why he accepted it. The more important thing to say is, Sir you have accepted invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology.”
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Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also wrote to Mukherjee requesting him to not attend the event. Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala in a letter to the former president wrote that his decision has come as a “rude shock” to “secular minds” in the country. The Sangh’s vision of creating a “Hindu Rashtra, comprising only one section of the population, is in sharp contrast with the Congress ideology of secularism and democracy”, he wrote.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi defended Mukherjee by recalling his own experience of attending events by RSS mouthpieces Panchjanya and Organiser. “It is a superficial approach to judge a man by the invitation he accepts unless you hear what he says and also keep in mind his 60-year legacy,” he added.
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Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, added that there is no reason for anyone to object to RSS principles and that Mahatma Gandhi himself had acknowledged the positive values propounded by the organisation. Recalling his association with the Sangh, Naidu said that the organisation is all about “self-discipline, self-respect, self-defence, self-reliance, social reform, social consciousness, social movement, selfless service — all guided by the philosophy of supremacy of the nation”.