Much ado about a speech PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 09 June 2018 00:00
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Mukherjee and Bhagwat were mostly in agreement


After having criticised former president Pranab Mukherjee for agreeing to deliver the address at the RSS’s Shiksha Varg celebrations, top Congress leaders beat a hasty retreat and party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala spoke of how Mukherjee had “shown ‘mirror of truth’ to RSS, to follow India’s civilizational values” and he followed this up by asking “will RSS & PM change path & accept his sagacious advise?” and spoke of how the ex-president had reminded the RSS of India’s ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’, ‘secularism’ and ‘inclusiveness’ … But the RSS would surely be equally pleased to see a career Congressman referring to its founder KB Hegdewar as a “great son of India” and the frequent references to ancient Indian kingdoms that the RSS relates to with pride?

And though the ex-President’s speech was delivered in English, surely what he said was not too different from what RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke of—in Hindi—while welcoming Mukherjee, when he talked of diversity being India’s hallmark or when he said that “diversity is beautiful but it has to lead us to unity at the end” or “we must come together for a common goal while keeping our diversity intact” … Bhagwat said “we have to know our ancestors were the same” and wondered what the fuss about it inviting Mukherjee was since it was an old Sangh tradition to invite people with different views. And if CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury was upset enough to say Mukherjee’s “history capsule … (did not) mention Mahatma Gandhi and his assassination”, should the RSS take that as a form of endorsement by Mukherjee?


The simplest explanation for the brouhaha is that the Congress saw the invitation to Mukherjee—and his acceptance—as an attempt by the Sangh parivar to become more acceptable as it were. And that while the Congress sought to portray the Sangh parivar as illiberal and much worse, its invitation to a career Congressman to deliver the main address at its function didn’t sit well with this portrayal. Whether or not the RSS agrees with all of what Mukherjee said or whether it feels Mukherjee was snubbing it for its views, it is certainly illiberal of the Congress to argue that the Sangh parivar cannot even interact with people of a different persuasion. At a time when the atmosphere in the country is being polarised, Indians of all faiths and communities need to be talking to one another, not at each other. To that extent, the RSS has the upper hand since it invited Mukherjee to talk to its cadres. Will the Congress party or some affiliate of it return the compliment by inviting a top BJP leader to address it?


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