Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s personal invi-tation to India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee to attend the RSS annual graduation event as the Chief Guest on June 7 and the latter’s decision to accept the same led to a massive political storm last week. However, Pranab Mukherjee’s much-anticipated presence and address at the Nagpur event on Thursday showed the malignant and self-centered politics of the ruling saffron party.
As slammed by the netizens on social media, the IT cell of Bharatiya Janata Party stooped to a new and much deeper low by morphing the picture of the former president saluting RSS-style and wearing a black coloured RSS cap that started doing the rounds of the social media minutes after he addressed the crowd.
But in reality, Mukherjee wearing a cap or giving a salute — neither of the two happened.
BJP spokesperson Shivray Kulkarni stated, “It is a conspiracy to defame RSS and BJP. The morphing of images is done by some mischievous group and the entire blame has come on BJP and RSS. We showed gratitude towards our former president and he addressed the crowd on nationalism. Nobody can malign the dignity of a leader who’s served the nation throughout his life.”
On one hand many feel that amidst the dark cloud of conflict between different political ideologies, Pranab Mukherjee’s strong-mindedness to attend the RSS event only shows his political neutrality as the former president of this nation. While on the other, several Congress leaders, including Jairam Ramesh, CK Jaffer Sharief, and Ramesh Chennithala, spared no effort to request the former president to reconsider his decision.
“I have received several letters, requests, and phone calls but I have not responded to any of them. Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur.” This is how the former president responded to the criticism when the entire Indian political sphere was busy arguing the pros and cons of his visit.
Congress spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare said, “BJP and RSS have strategies to hijack the legacy of the great leaders as they don’t have any footprint of the freedom struggle except Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They want to establish themselves in the mainstream — welcoming other party leaders on their stage is their strategy to receive good views.”
He further added, “In the recent event, one RSS member said that RSS is an organisation for Hindus, while Mohan Bhagwat stated RSS is an outfit of all irrespective of religions — the hypocrisy is very vivid.”
On top of that, hours prior to the event on June 7, Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter and Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee too opposed her father’s decision saying that his visit will help RSS to ‘plant false stories’ for ‘endorsement of the saffron ideology’. After the photoshopped image went viral, she took to Twitter again reminding her father that she had alerted him. In her post she wrote, “See, this is exactly what I was fearing and warned my father about. Not even few hours have passed, but BJP/RSS dirty tricks department is at work in full swing!”
NCP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon expressed his regret saying that the morphed photo incident shouldn’t have happened. He went on saying, “Pranab Mukherjee is a respected personality. BJP, Congress and social media — all are trying to take advantage of the sensationalisation of the news. The dignity of the former president was lost when he accepted the RSS event invitation as RSS ideology and his principles are poles apart.”
When AV spoke to RSS activist Devi Chand about the same, he denied any involvement of both RSS and BJP or any political strategy behind the morphed photos of Pranab Mukherjee from the RSS event.
Still and all, what exactly authorises these political groups to malign the dignity of the former Indian president? Is their political agenda or ideology more important than the national interest? On Thursday’s event, Pranab Mukherjee spoke on the concepts of nation, nationalism, patriotism and the strength of tolerance in the context of India. Despite that, how stopping so low in every possible situation has become a much-expected trend in our political surroundings?
The former president further expressed, “Intolerance will only dilute our national identity. Any attempt to define our nation through religion, dogma or intolerance, will only fade our existence.”