In what is perhaps seen as a U-turn from its earlier stand, the Congress hailed former President Pranab Mukherjee for showing the “Mirror of Truth” to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at the organisation’s Tritiya Varsh Training programme in the headquarters in Nagpur on Thursday.
Addressing the media in the national capital after Mukherjee’s speech at the RSS event, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala lauded the veteran party leader for reminding the RSS of India’s “pluralism’, ‘tolerance’, ‘secularism’ and ‘inclusiveness’ as an article of faith and soul of the country”. “He (Mukherjee) particularly highlighted the imperative need of freeing the public discourse from all forms of violence- physical and verbal, besides putting compassion, harmony and non-violence as the centre stage of our public life,” Surjewala said.
“Indicating the unchecked exercise of authority and attack on institutions in garb of a self-professed definition of ‘Pseudo Nationalism’, he reminded the RSS as also the Prime Minister that, ‘Indian Nationalism is Constitutional patriotism’,” he added.
While stating that “dialogue is possible in democratic order, with an open mind and willingness to change, accept and adapt to the other person’s point of view”, Surjewala said, “Let the RSS and BJP publically commit today to change its character, orientation, thought process and path and accept the sagacious advise of their guest, Shri Pranab Mukherjee today.”
The former President had become a subject of criticism for his party leaders ever since news about him, accepting the invitation to the RSS event, surfaced. Earlier in the day, the party had said images of the former president at the RSS headquarters had anguished millions of party workers and those who believe in pluralism and diversity of the Indian republic.
However, there seems to be difference of opinion within the Congress over Mukherjee’s speech. Speaking to NDTV, Congress leader Manish Tiwari condemned the former President for addressing the RSS event saying, “Pranab Mukherjee owes an explanation to the country more than the Congress as to what made him change his heart.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the former President should have reminded the RSS of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, “In the “history capsule” delivered by Pranab Mukherjee at the RSS headquarters, the absence of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassination speaks volumes. He would have done well to remind the RSS of its own history – banned thrice by Congress governments, first time by Sardar Patel, following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. “RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death”, Patel wrote to Golwalkar.”
In the “history capsule” delivered by Pranab Mukherjee at the RSS headquarters, the absence of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassination speaks volumes.
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) June 7, 2018
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said the speeches by Mukherjee and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat were complementary to each other, with a prime focus on “nation first”. Taking to Twitter, Madhav said, “Great address by Dr Pranab Mukharjee at Nagpur. His address and Dr Bhagwat’s address are in a way complementary to each other. Nation First is the core message of both. Democracy and striving for the welfare of all the people is described by both as the core of ancient Indian nationalism.”
Great address by Dr Pranab Mukharjee at Nagpur. His address n Dr Bhagwat’s address r in a way complementary to each other. Nation First is d core message of both. Democracy n striving for d welfare of all d people is described by both as d core of ancient Indian nationalism
— Ram Madhav (@rammadhavbjp) June 7, 2018