Nagpur: Extending a warm welcome to Pranab Mukherjee at sangh's headquarters in Nagpur, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Thursday that everyone knows about the personality of the former president. "We are grateful to be able to learn something from him and are honoured to receive Pranab Mukherjee's guidance. We are all aware of Dr Mukherjee's ordinary and simple nature. We are grateful for his presence at this function today."
Slamming those criticising the former president for attending the RSS event (an annual training camp, meant for swayamsevaks in their third year in the organisation), he said, "There have been many debates on Pranab Mukherjee attending the event. but we do not consider anyone different from ourselves. Debate over RSS invitation to former Pranab Mukherjee is meaningless... Indians are all one and united. There has been a tradition where we invite well-known people from various walks of life. The RSS only wants to unite the entire society. We embrace all."
Bhagwat added, "RSS believes in unity in diversity. Every citizen born in India is an Indian and it is his/her right to worship our motherland.... We are working for the progress of the country. There are times when we have differences. But we are all sons of the same soil. We must remain united irrespective of our diversity. Several great minds laid down their lives for this country."
"Government alone cannot do everything. Citizens also have to contribute. Then only the country can change... RSS has grown vastly since 1925, but we cannot stop here. We are not doing any work for fame. We want to move forward," he maintained.
Pranab Mukherjee accepting the invite from the RSS has generated a lot of interest as well as controversy, with Congress leaders urging him not to attend the event in the "interest of secularism".
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Thursday expressed his disapproval at his visiting the RSS headquarters and said he did not expect this from him. Patel, who is UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's close confidant and has been her political secretary, voiced his view on Twitter, in reply to his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee who spoke out against the decision of the former president to address the RSS event.
I did not expect this from Pranab da ! https://t.co/VBqXZ8x7SE
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) June 6, 2018
Earlier, Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had said that since Pranab Mukherjee had accepted the invitation, he should go and tell the RSS "what is wrong" in their ideology. Ramesh Chennithala, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, had sent a letter to the former president, requesting him to refrain from attending the event. Chennithala, also a leader of the opposition in Kerala assembly, had said that Pranab Mukherjee's decision had come as a "rude shock" to the secular minds of the country.
West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury and senior Congress leader V Hanumantha Rao too had urged Pranab Mukherjee not to attend the event. And, Hanumantha Rao, the AICC Secretary and former Rajya Sabha member, had said that the former president should withdraw his decision" in the interest of secularism". Veteran Congressman CK Jaffer Sharief had also written to Pranab Mukherjee, expressing surprise over the move and had said that he, like other secular people, was "stunned" to hear about his attending the RSS function.
On the other hand, Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Sah Sarkaryavah had said, "There has been unseemly outrage amongst certain sections of the political class on former president Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of an invitation as chief guest for the concluding ceremony of the RSS' Tritiya Varsh Training programme... The invitation has been extended to him with the view that this will be an invaluable opportunity to listen to his views. Also, he will have the opportunity to listen to the views of the Sangh and have a firsthand experience of Sangh as well. This exchange of views and ideas is intrinsic to the Bharatiya concept of dialogue, this invitation and its acceptance is but a continuation of that democratic tradition, enshrined in our cultural ethos."
(With PTI inputs)