New Delhi: Former President Pranab Mukherjee - whose decision to attend a function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as its chief guest has made a section of the Congress uncomfortable - has given an enigmatic response on the matter. "Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls, but I haven't responded to anyone yet," Mr Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika.
- Former President Pranab Mukherjee will attend an RSS event
- Congress leaders have asked him to reconsider his decision
- RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is likely to attend the event
The 82-year-old former President has been repeatedly asked to reconsider his decision by various leaders of the Congress, his party for five decades till he became the president in 2012. Many have expressed concern at the optics of the matter, pointing to what they call the divisive nature of the RSS, ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
Among those who tried to dissuade Mr Mukherjee from attending, were Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister CK Jaffer Sharief and the party's Bengal unit leader Adhir Choudhury.
Others maintained that it was more important to see what Mr Mukherjee had to tell the RSS volunteers at the June 7 valedictory function of Sangh Shiksha Varg.
During his term in office, Mr Mukherjee has repeatedly spoken his mind without stepping outside the constitutional boundaries of his post. He has made his displeasure clear with the rising instances of violence and mob frenzy and weighed in the debates on free speech, nationalism and intolerance. He has also expressed his personal admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Last week, President Mukherjee even had some advice from former cabinet colleague P Chidambaram.
Pointing out that Mr Mukherjee has already accepted the invite, Mr Chidambaram said, "The more important thing to say is, 'Sir you have accepted the invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology'."
The BJP has expressed satisfaction with Mr Mukherjee's decision with what they called a chance to begin dialogue. "Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of the invitation is a good start. Political untouchability is not good," said Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.