Mukherjee sticks to the values

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at an RSS function at Nagpur on Thursday was on expected lines and belied the apprehensions of those critics who were angry at his having accepted the saffron outfit’s invitation, without even waiting for what he told his audience. Mukherjee reiterated that the soul of India resided in its pluralism, in tolerance and in its composite culture. He voiced his concern at the ‘increased violence around us’ – both physical and verbal. He quoted Nehru and Tagore to underline the fact that throughout its five thousand year history, Indian civilization was always open and assimilative of the countless streams of civilization that had reached its shore and mingled in it.
What he said was the antithesis of the Sangh’s ideals, beliefs and its view of India’s civilizational history. The Congress leaders who were highly critical of his accepting the RSS invitation, praised him profusely after listening to his speech. A little patience and trust in the ideological loyalty of their former leader would have saved them the embarrassment. Whether the RSS and the BJP had an understanding over the invitation to the former President is not known but the BJP apparently took no notice of Mukherjee’s presence at Nagpur. Rather, a rumour was circulated that Mukherjee’s daughter, a Congress leader and party spokesperson, was about to join the BJP. Sharmistha Mukherjee denied it and attributed it to the ‘dirty tricks’ department of the BJP.
As has turned out, the panic reaction of the Congress to Pranab’s visit to Nagpur was unwarranted. Mukherjee, after demitting his office as President, is a free man now. The Congress can always consult him if it feels it necessary. Constitutionally and legally, there is no bar to a former president joining politics or contesting elections or occupying any elective post. The convention has been that a retired president does not involve himself in any political activity or associate himself with any political party. If Mukherjee chooses to join politics or is persuaded to do so, he can do so. This possibility is now being speculated openly due to a number of factors, some of which lie in the complex BJP-RSS equation and the perception of these two organizations about the prospect of the BJP in the next general elections. Many would think that it would be better for Mukherjee to abide by the convention and stay aloof from active politics.

Friday, 8 June, 2018