Moments after Pranab Mukherjee wrapped up his speech at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, the Congress party hailed the former President for “showing a mirror of truth to the Sangh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Addressing a press conference, Congress’s communication chief Randeep Singh Surjewala said Mr. Mukherjee had reminded the RSS of “India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness as articles of faith” and also had lessons for the Prime Minister on Rajdharma.
Mr. Surjewala also said the Congress party as “Indians and as Congressmen, encouraged and believed in the democratic dialogue across different thought processes” but wondered if the RSS had an open mind to accept another viewpoint.
“Is RSS ready to listen? Is RSS ready to change? Is RSS ready to admit its mistakes, both of thought and action? Is RSS ready to give up its inherent character of ‘subjugation, domination and violence?” asked Mr. Surjewala.
Sources say Congress’s official response came after party president Rahul Gandhi asked his colleagues “not to rush into giving any comments and respond only after hearing the speech.”
But for days now, the issue of Mr. Mukherjee attending a RSS event at its Nagpur headquarters saw several flip-flops and debate within the Congress. On Thursday evening, when TV channels showed visuals of Mr. Mukherjee with RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, senior leader Anand Sharma tweeted, “The images of Pranab Da, veteran leader and ideologue at RSS Headquarters have anguished millions of Congress workers and all those who believed in pluralism, diversity and the foundational values of the Indian Republic.”
“Dialogue can only be with those who are willing to listen, absorb and change. There is nothing to suggest that RSS has moved away from its core agenda as it seeks legitimacy.”