Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to accept the invitation extended to him by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has taken many Congress leaders by surprise. Though UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are yet to state their stand on the matter, several party leaders have expressed reservations on the former Congress leader’s move.
A Congress leader told The Indian Express that it was Mukherjee who had in 2010 tabled a resolution in the AICC plenary meet asking the then UPA government to ‘investigate the links between the Sangh and terrorists and its sister groups that have been uncovered in some recent case’.
Former Union minister and senior leader AK Antony said that he was unaware of Mukherjee’s event. Former Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that Mukherjee is an intelligent and ‘secular-minded’ person. “There will be no change in his behaviour by going there,” he told the daily. “He (Mukherjee) will remain the same.”
When Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari was asked how the party viewed Mukherjee’s acceptance, he sought to play safe by saying ‘the former President is the best person to answer’. “The invitation was extended to him. He has accepted the invitation. Ostensibly he is going. So therefore, if there are any queries with regard to that, he is the best person to answer that.”
“Why are you asking me? Ask other senior leaders,” another senior leader of the party reacted, the IE report said.
When suspended party leader Mani Shankar Ayer was asked about his views, he expressed confidence that the former President would take a wise call after consulting others.“As far as I have read, he has been invited but he will be giving his decision at the appropriate time… I am sure that he is weighing it in his mind and I am sure he is consulting others as well. So, this is quite the wrong time for an outsider to comment.”
According to The Indian Express, former President Pranab Mukherjee has met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at least four times after vacating the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Quoting sources, it said that senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari could have played a key role in facilitating the meetings between the two. A senior RSS functionary said that frequent meetings between Bhagwat and Mukherjee paved the way for the former President’s consent to attend the programme.
Meanwhile, the invitation card of the RSS has confirmed that former President Pranab Mukherjee will be present on the occasion as the chief guest. It reads: “The Tritiya Varsha Sangh Shiksha Varg of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is underway at the Smriti Mandir premises, Reshim Bagh, Nagpur. Honourable former President Pranab Mukherjee will be present as the chief guest on the closing ceremony of the function.”
Invitation card of the event for which Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has invited Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee, the event is scheduled for June 7 in Nagpur. #Maharashtra