NEW DELHI: The opposition stayed away from the three-day RSS outreach event that started here on Monday alleging that it has a "pre-election agenda" to project that the outfit is "neither untouchable nor hated".
None of the opposition leaders turned up for dialogue at the event -- "Bhavishya Ka Bharat - An RSS Perspective" -- organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP, even though the Sangh had claimed to have invited many of them.
Many opposition leaders, including those from the Congress said they did not get any invite and would have stayed away even if invited.
The event comes three months after former president Pranab Mukherjee addressed a function at the Sangh's Nagpur headquarters in June.
Sources said this event was aimed at opening up the RSS for dialogue with such forces that are opposed to it.
It was speculated that Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who attacks the RSS often and accuses it of spreading hatred in the country, would be invited for the event, but the party leaders denied having received any invite.
When asked about the RSS event, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh downplayed it saying, "I got no invitation from the RSS (for the three-day lecture series). No mail, no phone call, no letter. Even if they invited me, I would not have gone."
NCP leader Majeed Memon said it appears that the endeavour of RSS is to create some kind of an atmosphere that "it is not untouchable and not hated".
"It is some kind of a pre-election agenda. People can understand it and therefore we do not want people to be misled."
"They first called Pranab Mukherjee. He went there. Then they thought of expanding their reach to the whole country. But that would not work. It is now exposed that you (RSS) are now trying to expand your fold in order to grant some kind of benefit to the BJP," Memon said.
RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav tweeted, "What role RSS played in freedom movement of India? Cozying up with invaders or spying for Britishers (sic)."
Terming the RSS a "radicalised right-wing organisation", Muslim Political Council of India president T A Rehmani denied having received any invitation from the Sangh.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi said on Twitter, "From the horse's mouth - 'Mr Modi has allowed RSS the opportunity to get at state power' - PM Modi has become a Trojan Horse for the RSS to infiltrate Indian constitutional institutions. People of India will fight back in 2019 (sic)."
Another Congress leader Salman Anees Soz said, "The world knows about the role of the Congress in the freedom movement. It is the RSS the world wants to know more about. For example, that inconvenient part about love for Nazism and Fascism."
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala had earlier alleged that the RSS and the BJP have been spreading "fake news" for a while regarding sending invites for the event.
"No such invite has been received by the Congress party and it is not a medal of honour. Their inherently hate-filled agenda is known to one and all," Surjewala had said.
Launching the unprecedented outreach programme to make the organisation better understood, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said India's diversity must be respected, celebrated and it should not be a reason for any discord in society.
On the first day of the three-day conclave he elaborated on the evolution of the RSS, which, he said, cannot be compared to any other organisation.
Many leaders of the ruling BJP were present at the event, as were many Bollywood actors, artists and academicians.