Why Does Pranab Mukherjee Want to Please the RSS?
Former President throws his hat into the political arena
NEW DELHI: Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee has stirred a hornet's nest with his decision to go to Nagpur to address the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh swayamsevaks with speculation rife as to why and what has prompted this. Dismissing all efforts by senior Congress leaders to cancel the visit Mukherjee has said, "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.”
What he will say is not as important as the taken decision to speak to the RSS cadres. Why? The answer emanating from political corridors is categorical: with this Mukherjee has thrown his hat in as a possible consensus candidate for the Prime Minister if the opportunity so offers itself. Sources close to Mukherjee also said that he is hoping to soften the RSS for possible support as a ‘consensus’ candidate if a favourable coalition emerges from the polls next year.
While this speculation might be seen by some as a little far fetched at this stage, it is clear that the former President wants to keep good relations with the RSS. And that his decision to accept the invite is not as simple as it might appear at first glance. In fact it has its origins in the invitation ---the first ever in the history of India---by Mukherjee as the President of India to the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for what Rashtrapati Bhawan had described as a “courtesy lunch” in June last year. And insisted that it should not be seen as political.
Significantly this was the second public visit by Bhagwat to the President's House, the first being in 2015 when he visited then President Mukherjee to ostensibly offer Diwali greetings.
Interestingly Mukherjee's relations with Bhagwat have been firm and consistent throughout his term as President. After he retired as well, Mukherjee launched the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation in March this year with Bhagwat among the select invitees.
Mukherjee will now be the chief guest at the end of a a 25-day camp of RSS’ Shiksha Varg (education wing). The BJP has expressed happiness over the decision that will have the former President at the RSS headquarters on June 7. What he will say is now being seen as “inconsequential” by political opponents who point out that the importance lies in the fact that he was invited by Bhagwat for this important event, and that he accepted.
Mukherjee as President of India had steered away from the Congress party that had elected him to the post after the BJP came to power. A firm indication of this was in his decision to impose President's rule in Uttarakhand in 2016 that the then Congress chief minister Harish Rawat described as a ‘murder of democracy’. Interestingly, the decision was based on the reports of Uttarakhand Governor at the time KK Paul who was the husband of Mukherjee’s aide Omita Paul leading The Citizen to ask at that time whether was a conflict of interest.
He has always been very close to Mukesh Ambani of the Reliance group. Mukherjee during his political career had special equations with Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani. In fact when the two brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani fell apart, Pranab Mukherjee played a key role in bringing them together.