Days after former President Pranab Mukherjee attended a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event in Nagpur, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) estranged ally Shiv Sena has hit out at the right-wing organisation. Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that inviting Mukherjee to the event might be an attempt aimed at 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that the RSS was probably preparing to pitch Pranab Mukherjee as a prime ministerial candidate. “We feel RSS is preparing itself for a situation where it might put forth Pranab Mukherjee ji for Prime Minister post if BJP fails to get required numbers,” said Raut.
According to the Shiv Sena leader, the RSS has invited Mukherjee as the BJP is certain of losing a minimum of 110 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Notably, the statement by the party comes just days after BJP president Amit Shah met Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray at ‘Matoshree’ in Mumbai.
Accompanied by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shah had met Thackeray reportedly to convince him for an alliance in the 2019 general elections. Though Shah and Thackeray also had a closed-door meeting, sources said that Shiv Sena had failed to give any assurance to the BJP for pre-poll alliance. Thackeray told Shah that their decision would depend on how the attitude of Maharashtra government remained towards them in the run up to the battle of 2019.
Former President Pranab Mukherjee had attended the RSS event in Nagpur on June 7 wherein he shared the stage with the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagwat. Addressing the huge gathering, Mukherjee had warned that any attempt to define India through “religion, dogma or intolerance” would dilute India’s existence.
Mukherjee, who served as President of India between 2012 and 2017, added, "I am here to share my understanding on nation, nationalism and patriotism about our country which is 'Bharat'... We must free our public discourse from all kinds of fear and violence."
The move by Mukherjee to attend RSS event had triggered a war of words between the ruling BJP and opposition parties, including the Congress. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had tweeted that he “did not expect this from Pranab Da”.
The former President’s daughter, Sharmistha Mukherjee, had also objected to her father’s move warning him of the consequences of attending the event.