New Delhi: A controversy has erupted over the participation of two IT honchos in an RSS event in Chennai.
While Accenture managing director (MD) Rama S. Ramachandran distanced himself from the event in the wake of the row, Sridhar Vembu, the CEO of Chennai-headquartered tech firm Zoho, said he was unfazed by the Twitter storm.
The controversy began this Monday as a Twitter user shared a poster for a 2 February RSS event for information technology professionals. Titled “Resurgent Bharath”, the event, according to the poster, would have Ramachandran as guest of honour and Vembu as chief guest.
Tweeting under the handle “@yehlog”, the user tagged professional services firm Accenture, an IT major, and raised questions about Ramachandran’s participation in an event organised by “a religious extremist paramilitary group that seeks to target minorities and has been responsible for the most brutal acts of violence the country has seen”.
The RSS or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is the ideological parent of ruling BJP. The tweet went on to get 2,400 likes and 2,000 shares.
Hello @Accenture, why is your India MD at a function of a religious extremist paramilitary group that seeks to target minorities and has been responsible for the most brutal acts of violence the country has seen? pic.twitter.com/Be0m16rZM9
— Yeh Log ! (@yehlog) January 6, 2020
Replying to the tweet later the same day, Ramachandran described the matter as a “misunderstanding” and said he had “never agreed to speak at or attend this event”, a claim denied by RSS insiders in conversation with ThePrint.
I am not sure how this misunderstanding happened, but I have no affiliation with this group and never agreed to speak at or attend this event.
— Rama S. Ramachandran (@RamaAccenture) January 6, 2020
Vembu, whose reply was posted earlier and went on to get over 10,000 likes, said, “I don’t decide my views based on Twitter attacks.”
I don't decide my views based on Twitter attacks. If you dislike which events I attend, please do what your conscience dictates and I will do what mine dictates. We earn our daily bread due to our work and we will continue to do quality work. I won't be responding to attacks.
— Sridhar Vembu (@svembu) January 6, 2020
In a company statement to ThePrint, Zoho said, “Creating jobs in rural areas, a pressing priority in India, is a subject Sridhar is passionate about. As a result, Zoho has been creating high paying jobs in rural communities. Sridhar had agreed to share his expertise and experience at a forum focused on this topic. There was nothing more to it.”
ThePrint has approached Accenture for comment through emails to their PR representatives but has not heard back as yet. This report will be updated when a reply is received.
A source privy to Accenture affairs, meanwhile, said Ramachandran was likely acting in his personal capacity and not representing the firm in the purported agreement with the RSS.
‘No hard feelings’
The RSS’ Chennai members said they had no “hard feelings” towards Ramachandran for backing out, saying the publicity triggered by the controversy had bolstered attendance “beyond expectations”.
“There are no hard feelings at all, we are all working towards unity of the country not division,” said Prakash, the Tamil Nadu state secretary for RSS who handles public relations.
A senior RSS member, however, refuted Ramachandran’s claim that he never agreed to attend the event. “We spoke to Rama, we got his go-ahead, then only we printed the invite.”
The RSS member, who asked not to be named as he too works for an MNC, said he understood “the pressure Rama is going through”.
“But if Rama is not coming, he is not coming, that is all. It’s not the end of the world. The event will go ahead as planned,” the member added.
Prakash said the controversy had nearly tripled the expected participation at Resurgent Bharath. While organisers originally estimated around 150-200 guests, they now expect nearly 600 people to attend, he added.
The unnamed RSS member said they had received over 50 registrations between Monday morning and Wednesday evening.
This report has been updated to include Zoho’s statement.