The RSS invitation to the former President Pranab Mukherjee and his acceptance of the same to attend a formal function on June 7 at Nagpur has triggered a major political row with Congress party finding itself stunned.
Senior BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy implied that Mukherjee’s interactions with RSS could rekindle the spirit and voice of the Swadeshi versions of the Congress party.
“When circumstances change…people have to look what is good for the country……Congress strength has deteriorated in Parliament. I think Pranab Mukherjee is concerned about the future of the country and the Congress and probably he wants that the Swadeshi version of Congress party is also expressed,” Dr Swamy said.
Another BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, however, said in public space there should be no room for “political untouchability”.
“The RSS is an Indian organisation, it is not ISI,” Gadkari said.
“Till now, we have not formalised our reactions to the episode and as of now I will only say, it is no comment,” Congress spokesman Tom Vadakkan told reporters.
However, he said the party will formulate its response at the right time “when the event is to take place”.
But party leader Sandeep Dikshit said the onus is on the RSS to clarify as to whether the past observations made by Mukherjee, during his long career as Congress leader, was “right”.
“Have they invited him merely for a symbolic value as he is a former President,” Dikshit told television journalists.
“It is time RSS clarifies on why you have invited a person who has always attacked the organisation. Mukherjee knows how really RSS works. Is it then RSS has changed its views on itself and wants to change?,” he said.
However, this is not the first time such interaction will take place between Pranab Mukherjee and the RSS.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had also called on Mukherjee during the last days of his term as the President.
Mukherjee had also invited Mohan Bhagwat once for lunch at the Rashtrapati Bhavan while top Sangh leaders were also invited for the launch of the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Gadkari said: “Who should go to RSS function and who should be called is purely a subject matter between the one who is hosting the meeting and who is the guest.”
“I strongly believe that political untouchability is not a good thing in democracy. All sides should meet each other and share and exchange views. If there is any difference of opinion, it should also be shared….If Pranab Mukherjee comes for the meet, it will be good,” said Mr Gadkari, who is known for his close proximity to the RSS leadership. Senior BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy said: “In 1963, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru allowed a RSS contingent to participate in Republic Day parade…Nehru never liked RSS. Lal Bahadur Shastri had also invited RSS,” he said.
RSS sources have said in the past even Mahatma Gandhi had graced a RSS event in 1934 and also that likes of former President Zakir Hussain have lauded the organisation.