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Pranab Mukherjee's RSS Date Today As Daughter Tweets Resentment

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Former President Pranab Mukherjee is in Nagpur where he will be the chief guest at a function of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh today. The event has generated a lot of interest and controversy over the past few days, ever since Mr Mukherjee agreed to address RSS trainees at the Sangh’s headquarters in Nagpur.

He is scheduled to arrive at the venue at 5:30 pm, where he will be welcomed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Mr Mukherjee will then have tea with Mr Bhagwat and RSS No. 2 Bhaiyyaji Joshi, after which senior functionaries of the Sangh will be introduced to him.

Mr Mukherjee, 82, will visit the memorial of RSS founder KB Hedgewar, offer floral tributes and reach the function venue at 6:15 pm. He is scheduled to make a 20-minute speech soon after. Finally, Mr Bhagwat will address the gathering.

A lot of curiosity exists over what Pranab Mukherjee, who has been critical of the RSS ideology during his five-decade-long association with the Congress before he became President of India in 2012, will say.

There has been disquiet in a section of the Congress after he accepted the invite, with many leaders asking him to reconsider his decision.

On Wednesday, the former President’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee disagreed with the former President’s decision. She also scotched rumours that she could join the BJP.



Congress lawmaker Ahmed Patel too tweeted his displeasure, saying “I did not expect this from Pranab da”.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi often accuses the RSS — the ideological mentor of the BJP — of trying to divide the country on religious lines and playing a major role in shaping government policy.

The Congress has offered “no comment” on Mr Mukherjee attending the event, adding that “there is a lot of difference between their (RSS) ideology and our ideology”.

Former union minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that since Mr Mukherjee has accepted the invitation, he should go and tell the RSS “what is wrong” in their ideology.

Last week, Ramesh Chennithala, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, wrote to the former President, requesting him to not attend the event.

“As a person who has served as the first citizen of our country and the greatest ambassador of secularism, I request you to reconsider your decision”, said Mr Chennithala.

West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said “just like any other Congressman, I am really astonished”.

“My question is does he (Mr Mukherjee) think his previous comments against RSS were wrong”, asked Mr Chowdhury.

Congress veteran CK Jaffer Sharief had written to the former President, saying he was “stunned” to hear about his decision to attend the RSS function.

There are some Congress leaders though who have backed Mr Mukherjee’s move.

“Pranab Mukherjee is a secular person. He will always put forth a secular view which he will do there (at the RSS event) as well,” said Sushil Kumar Shinde, a former union minister and senior Congress leader from Maharashtra.

Despite the voices of disapproval and requests to reconsider his decision, Mr Mukherjee has remained unfazed.

“Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls, but I haven’t responded to anyone yet,” Mr Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika.

Senior BJP leader and union minister Nitin Gadkari has welcomed Mr Mukherjee’s decision, calling it a good start.

“Pranab Mukherjee’s acceptance of the invitation is a good start. Political untouchability is not good,” Mr Gadkari said.

As President, Pranab Mukherjee had invited Mohan Bhagwat for lunch at Rashtrapati Bhavan ahead of the presidential election last year in what was called a “courtesy” meeting. In 2015, the RSS chief had called on Mr Mukherjee to extend Diwali greetings.

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