Former President Pranab Mukherjee said we derive our strength from tolerance at the RSS event
At a press conference held minutes after Mr Mukherjee’s address at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said he has reminded the ideological mentor of the BJP about “India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness as an article of faith and soul of the country”.
Over the last week, several Congress leaders, including the Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary and Mr Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee has levelled barbed comments at the former President. Their contention – the optics of his appearance at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur will hand a powerful political weapon to the BJP to denigrate the Congress.
Mr Mukherjee, who has refused to answer questions, saying he would say his piece only at the event, today delivered a strong message.
In a half-hour speech, he traced the course of history to track and define India’s democracy and plurality and called it a “sacred trust”.
He highlighted the need of freeing public discourse from all forms of violence and reminded the government about Rajdharma — quoting liberally from scriptures, poetry, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the treatises of Chanakya, philosopher and advisor of Chandragupta Maurya, who was dubbed the greatest political mind of ancient India.
Today, the Congress asserted that “as Indians and as Congressmen, we encourage and believe in the democratic dialogue”, but questioned whether the “RSS was ready to listen”. It also questioned whether the RSS believed “that by merely inviting the former President to an event will give it the much elusive social and political sanctity”.
The RSS and various leaders of the BJP had maintained that Mukherjee’s acceptance of the RSS was an encouragement of the need for dialogue. The Congress leaders’ concern was merely evidence of small-mindedness.