With Mukherjee’s Nagpur visit, scheduled for June 7, kicking up a storm of comment, sources said he shed his political role when he became President and would not see issues through a partisan lens as was often the case in party politics. “The RSS is not an illegal or banned body,” a source said.
His speech will be keenly awaited and is likely to see him present his views on current debates such as the one on nationalism, which may not be in sync with the Sangh’s beliefs, but the relevance of shared values can be seen as a message for all sides in the midst of polarised discussions.
The former President agreed to speak at the function after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat called on him twice after he demitted office. Bhagwat had invited Mukherjee when he was President as well but the invitation could not be accepted. After his stint in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mukherjee has met leaders from across the political spectrum including PM Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Since he saw himself as above the fray — with no involvement in active politics — interacting with various shades of opinion was not exceptional or unusual. Mukherjee’s address can be expected to reflect his study of history, culture and religion and experience of public life in stressing the essential aspects of Indian identity and social life.
He has previously, as President, spoken of the need to preserve India’s traditions of pluralism and tolerance and this could be his message to both sides of the political divide. His association with Congress has not ended and he will remain a member of the party. While Congress has avoided any comment on Mukherjee’s visit, his presence at the RSS’s Reshim Bagh headquarters has caused some unease as it flies in the face of the party’s frequent criticism of the organisation as a socially and politically divisive and disruptive influence.