Despite criticism, Pranab Mukherjee to attend RSS event in Nagpur

Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the RSS invite to be the chief guest at its 'Tritiya Varsha Sangh Shiksha Varg' (cadres training program).

Despite criticism, Pranab Mukherjee to attend RSS event in Nagpur

NAGPUR: All eyes are on former president and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee who arrived in Nagpur late on Wednesday to attend a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event on Thursday.

Ahead of the event, a political slugfest had erupted over Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of the RSS invite to be the chief guest at its 'Tritiya Varsha Sangh Shiksha Varg' (cadres training program).

While several Congress leaders had urged him to reconsider his decision, many said that his visit would create an "undesirable difference" in the country.

Among those who warned him of the ''serious consequences'' of attending the RSS event included his daughter  Sharmistha Mukherjee, who is also the president of Mahila Congress as well as in-charge of the communication department of the party's Delhi unit.

Sharmistha had on Wednesday strongly disapproved of his father's decision to addresses a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event in Nagpur.

She tweeted saying that he was giving the BJP and the Sangh a handle to plant false stories, as his "speech will be forgotten" but the "visuals will remain".

Sharmistha's outburst came soon after rumours about her joining the BJP cropped up ahead of Pranab Mukherjee's speech in Nagpur on Thursday. She dismissed such "rumours" of her joining the BJP as "false" and alleged they were the handiwork of BJP's "dirty tricks department". Sharmistha said she would rather leave politics than quit the Congress.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken also rejected such suggestions, saying Sharmistha was a "devoted" Congressperson.

She also warned her father of the consequences of attending such a meet. "Even the RSS wouldn't believe that you are going to endorse its views in your speech. By going to Nagpur, you are giving BJP/RSS full handle to plant false stories, spread falls rumours as today and making it somewhat believable. And this is just the beginning," Sharmistha said. 

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said earlier that since Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the invitation, he should go and tell the RSS "what is wrong" in their ideology. Ramesh Chennithala, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, 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, said that the former president should withdraw his decision" in the interest of secularism". Veteran Congressman CK Jaffer Sharief also wrote 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. 

However, Amit Shah-led BJP had strongly backed the former president's decision to attend the RSS event, saying Mahatma Gandhi, former president Zakir Husain, activist Jayaprakash Narayan and commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, Kodandera M Cariappa had previously been guests at various RSS events.

The RSS had earlier said that it is the greatness of the former president to accept their invitation.

Responding to his criticism, Mukherjee had said that he will reveal his thoughts on the matter during the event itself.

(With Agency inputs)