Pranab Mukherjee’s RSS address: Kapil Sibal calls it a ‘misstep’, but Congress ‘needn’t be perturbed
New Delhi, June 12: Days after former President and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra and addressed its cadres last week, the implication of the controversial decision of the 82-year-old leader on the Indian polity is still being discussed.
On Tuesday, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal expressed his view on the whole matter in an opinion piece he wrote for The Indian Express.
While attacking the RSS and its divisive ideology, the former human resource development minister called the visit of Mukherjee to the headquarters of the right-wing group a "misstep". Sibal, however, added that "the Congress need not be unduly perturbed. He did not go there as a representative of the party."
"He went there, I think, to symbolise the forces that represent the mainstream of Indian politics reasserting itself. That he could have done the same without embarrassing mainstream India was a matter of his choice. That choice was a misstep. To have him pay respect to the bhagwa jhanda and refer to Hedgewar as a great son of India will be moments that will be savoured by the RSS: Moments embarrassing for the idea of India," Sibal wrote for The Indian Express.
Starting his column by calling Mukherjee a "consummate politician", Sibal wrote that "politicians falling in that class also trip up", thus making the discomfort of the Congress clear regarding the former President's decision to accept the RSS' invite.
Attacking the RSS and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sibal said, "This majoritarian culture muffles free speech of all those opposed to it; celebrates violence with impunity; decides on what we should eat and how we should dress; issues diktats on what we should trade in and how we must trade; derides and punishes if we marry outside the narrow confines of their prejudices; seeks conformist forms of artistic expression and decides on the heroes and villains of history which need not emerge from scholarship; ensures that children's textbooks align with majoritarian thought processes and makes universities laboratories of conflict by demoralising those holding contrarian views."
While most of the Congress leaders have expressed their reservations regarding Mukherjee's trip to the RSS camp, others like P Chidambaram took a more holistic view on the matter giving his former colleague the benefit of the doubt.
Mukherjee spoke on "nation, nationalism and patriotism" at the RSS event, in an attempt to remind all about the glorious history of the country which is tolerant at the same time. Many of his "admirers" criticised the former President for not telling the RSS what exactly was wrong with its ideology.
As the debate over Mukherjee's RSS visit continues, time will only tell if the veteran leader took the right decision or not.