NAGPUR: Many an eyebrow was raised on Thursday when former President Pranab Mukherjee praised Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Dr K B Hedgewar as a “great son of India”.
“Today, I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India,” wrote Mukherjee in the visitor’s book when he, accompanied by Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, visited Dr Hedgewar’s residence near the RSS headquarters in the Mahal area of the city around noon.
Mukherjee, who had arrived in the city on Wednesday night, spent almost the entire day understanding the RSS before addressing the valedictory function of its Tritiya Varsh Sangh Shiksha Varg (SSV) late in the evening.
At Dr Hedgewar’s house, he was given information on the times and works of the Sangh founder, said an official who accompanied him during his visit. The former President then went to the Reshmi Bag area, where the SSV is underway. There he met RSS officials in-charge of SSV and was appraised of programmes carried out at the SSV.
“Mukherjee was very inquisitive and asked several questions to understand the nitty-gritties of the training of RSS cadres and the regular work carried out by Swayamsevaks,” said Anil Sambre, in-charge of media relations at RSS media wing, Vishwa Samvad Kendra.
Mukherjee later went to Smriti Mandir, memorials of Dr Hedgewar and M S Golwalkar—the first two chiefs of Sangh—to pay his respects.
“This is nothing new or special for us. Every year some or the other prominent personality is invited as chief guest for the valedictory function of the SSV. The programme for all of them is almost the same. This year there is more media attention, which is the only distinctly different thing from every year,” said Dr Manmohan Vaidya, Sangh Sah Sarkaryavah.
Netaji, Shastri family members other invitees
Though Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the SSV function, there were several other invitees, including family members of ex-PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Sunil Shastri, son of Lal Bahadur Shastri, was present along with wife Mira Devi. Ardhendu Bose, who belongs to Bose’s family, author and Hindutva exponent Rajiv Malhotra, industrialist and member of Coffee board Chella Rajendra Prasad, MD of Mafatlal Denim Vishad Mafatlal and ex-captain of football team Kalyan Chaube were the other guests invited to witness the function.
BJP, Sangh hit out at Congress for ‘political untouchability’
New Delhi: The BJP and RSS lauded Pranab Mukherjee for accepting the invitation to address the saffron conclave in Nagpur on Thursday and slammed Congress leaders for criticising the former President’s visit to Nagpur, dubbing it as continuing with the practice of ‘political untouchability’.
“There is absolutely nothing surprising in this entire episode. The RSS inviting former President is on expected lines as Sangh has always invited eminent persons regardless of their political ideology. The
Sangh never believed in thought-apartheid,” BJP vice-president Vinay Sahashrabuddhe told TNIE.
The BJP leader said “Pranabda accepting the invite is also on expected lines as he is known for his open mindedness”.“On the other hand a few Congressmen opposing Pranabda’s visit is also unsurprising knowing well that they believe in ideological untouchability and thriving on wantonly created prejudices.”
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi also lauded Mukherjee for ‘boosting dialogue’.
The RSS explained that the saffron organisation has always advocated the idea of dialogue in society. Taking potshots at Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Anand Sharma for criticising Mukherjee, BJP general secretary Bhupinder Yadav said it showed they “suffer from narrow-mindedness”ENS