At every step, veteran Congressman Pranab Mukherjee seems to have been humiliated and eventually sidelined by those at the helm of the party by sole virtue of accident of birth.
Some sections of the commentariat beholden to the Congress party as well as some members of the Grand Old Party, including Pranab Mukherjee’s own daughter, had expressed their reservations about the former president addressing the Third Year Sangha Shiksha Varga of the RSS in Nagpur.
It is difficult to understand the reason for this indignation. The Sangh has always remained open to engaging with those who have been inimical to it in ideological terms. It is important to understand that once someone assumes the office of President of India, she/he cannot be confined within the narrow boundaries of political partisanship. Pranab da is, therefore, decidedly a national asset.
Sidelined by Congress
It was unfortunate that certain dynastic stooges in the Congress party took to reminding the former president of his legacy as a Congressman. Apart from the president’s own daughter, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Ahmed Patel, P. Chidambaram (currently facing investigation in the INX scam and believed to be a bitter adversary of the former president when both were colleagues in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet) and Veerappa Moily had made similar points. The former home minister/finance minister went ahead and said that he hoped that the former president would tell the RSS what was “wrong” with its ideology.
It is a bit rich on the part of these Congressmen, with the exception of redoubtable Sharmistha Mukherjee, to remind Pranab da of his legacy as a ‘Congressman’. Very few senior leaders of the party are believed to have been treated as shabbily by the ruling ‘First Family’ of the Congress party. Many believe that after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Pranab Mukherjee was literally thrown into the political doghouse merely for the crime of telling people that he was indeed the senior-most parliamentarian in the cabinet after the demise of the prime minister.
Those in the know also believe that he was literally forced into political retirement by anointment as the President of India by the ‘First Family’ at the behest of certain vested interests in the Manmohan Singh cabinet, who were perhaps envious of his clout and competence.
At every step, this veteran Congressman seems to have been humiliated and eventually sidelined by those at the helm of the party by sole virtue of accident of birth.
Finally, it is about time the Congress stopped arrogating to itself the exclusive privilege to distribute certificates of secularism to everyone. The RSS or for that matter Pranab da himself, who has held the highest constitutional position in the land, does not need any such certificates from the Congress or its flailing leadership that has taken to celebrating ‘moral victories’ in the absence of any real ones.
Pranab, RSS on same page
Now, most Congressmen seem to have reached the conclusion that the speech in question is an indictment of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
On the contrary, an unbiased perusal of some of the themes that were touched upon in the course of the speech would lead one to the inescapable conclusion that the same was a scathing indictment of the culture of dynastic entitlement, which inevitably shuts out the possibility of dialogue and dissent that has enveloped the Congress party.
As a matter of fact, the former president seems to have been echoing the incumbent sarsanghachalak when he extolled the unity in diversity of our great country.
Mohan Bhagwat stated clearly that the first sarsanghchalak, K.B. Hedgewar, had told the swayamsewaks to not regard anyone as their enemy and stressed the importance of panthnirpekshataa or the conception of a state and nationhood, which does not subscribe to discrimination based on mode of worship.
The other salient points made during the course of the speech, which may not gladden the hearts of our Marxist and half-Marxist Congress party friends, are:
(i) The former president clearly stated that India’s nationalism is derived from universalism, and that our country was a nation even before the Treaty of Westphalia. This is in stark contrast to what liberals in India seem to be telling us about how India is not a nation even now. He traces India’s nationhood to the Mahajanapadas. Again, Communists and pseudo-liberals may tell us that there is nothing worthwhile about ancient India.
(ii) He termed Muslim invaders of the subcontinent for what they were – invaders, instead of airbrushing their depredations as Communist historians are wont to do.
(iii) He also stated that the revolt of 1857 was India’s first war of Independence, a phrase coined by Veer Savarkar. The Communist historians chose to call it a ‘revolt’, which is closer to the description British historians like G.B. Malleson preferred, which was ‘sepoy mutiny’.
(iv) He stressed the importance of unity in diversity and multiplicity of opinions and dialogue. This is what the RSS has been practising for a while now as opposed to the dynastic and sycophantic culture of the Congress party, which scotches any scope for dissent and/or debate.
Raghav Awasthi is an advocate and an RSS member.