Skip to content

Can Pranab Mukherjee be regarded as Mark Antony of the 21st Century?

Aiman writes, Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at Swayamsevak’s Parade at RSS headquarters touched on the current political scenario in the country. The President made a likely moderate and balanced speech.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee visited Nagpur to witness Swayamsevak’s Parade at RSS headquarters and addressed the gathering on 7th June, 2018. The focus of the speech was on pluralism, tolerance and secularism. Although the President drew strong criticism from Congress for accepting an RSS invite to address its cadres, his speech was ‘a lesson in true Indian philosophy’. Pranab Mukherjee’s speech touched on the current political scenario in the country. The President made a likely moderate and balanced speech. He chose to make pointed references to Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of Indian Nationalism rather than expressing his viewpoints on RSS ideology thereby delineating the Sangh’s less than laudatory view of India’s first Prime Minister. He said,

“We celebrate our diversity. Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity.”[1]

Mr. Mukherjee’s visit to the birthplace of RSS founder Sarsanghachalak Keshav Baliram Hedgewar to pay him a tribute further intensified an uneasiness within the members of the Congress Party. The President was further met with suspicion by the Congress leaders when he called RSS founder KB Hedgewar a “great son of Mother India.” However it was wise on the part of the President to do so as it gave a ‘balancing effect’ to his speech. The sanctification of the RSS founder by the President led to a number of comments, tweets as well as heightened chatter about breaching the red line. Deputy leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma took to tweet his views on the same and said,

“The images of Pranab Da, veteran leader and ideologue at RSS Headquarters have anguished millions of Congress workers and all those who believe in pluralism, diversity and the foundational value of the Indian Republic.” He further adds,

“Dialogue can only be with those who are willing to listen, absorb and change. There is nothing to suggest that RSS has moved from its core agenda as it seeks legitimacy.” [2]

The Congress leaders apart from the President’s speech laid an emphasis on the fact that Mr. Mukherjee’s very presence at the RSS headquarters had undercut Congress’ distinct ideological position in the political arena. However the shooting anxiety levels within the Congress were relieved by the President’s speech which was identified by the Congress leaders as “a lesson in Indianness,” to the RSS. The Congress leaders further posed an interesting question for the RSS and asked if the Sangh would be willing to accept the “sagacious advice” of the President that pluralism is central to Indian nationalism. The President’s speech acted as an ‘aspirin’ to the headache it caused within the Congress Party as it brought a relief to the Party leaders who initially felt embarrassed by the veteran leaders decision to accept RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat’s invitation. The Senior Congress leaders said that the President had shown the mirror to the RSS and that his speech was a lesson in “Raj Dharma” to PM Narendra Modi. [3]

However the members of the Congress did not seem to be pleased by The President’s remarks that public engagement and dialogue could reconcile differences. They furthered their views by saying that they believe in democratic dialogue across different thought processes and that dialogue is possible only with those who have open mind and are willing to change. The Congress iterated its long held view that the Sangh had avoided and opposed participation in the freedom struggle and called it pseudo-nationalism. They also argued that the RSS never believed in India’s diversity and also Nathuram Godse was closely associated with RSS.

Ramchandra Guha also expressed his stern views after the President’s speech. Guha through his remarks truly recognised the full worth of Mr. Mukherjee’s speech and strongly criticized Bhagwat. He said,

“Bhagwat’s unitary and homogenising nationalism has been shamed by Pranab Mukherjee’s catholic and broad-minded understanding of what it means to be an Indian. Mukherjee dwells on the significance of our Constitution, a document Bhagwat would not or could not mention.”[4]

Pranab Mukherjee’s speech has been very well appreciated by the elites as well as the secular intellectuals who are against the homogenisation ideology of the RSS.




[1]Bhagwat, Ramu. “At RSS headquarters, Pranab preaches pluralism, tolerance and secularism”. The Times Of India. Friday, June 8, 2018.

[2] Bhagwat, Ramu. “Firstly they hammered him, then they hailed him”. The Times Of India. Friday, June 8, 2018.

[3] Times New Network. “Take Pranab’s Sagacious advice, Cong tells RSS”. The Times Of India. Friday, June 8, 2018.

[4] Times New Network. “Take Pranab’s Sagacious advice, Cong tells RSS”. The Times Of India. Friday, June 8, 2018.

483 Total Views 1 Views Today