Statesman Mukherjee outshines political pundits at the Nagpur meet
Tejinder Singh Bedi
“Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur” — was the crisp short response of former President Pranab Mukherjee on his decision to attend the much talked about RSS event, when trolled by a number of his former party colleagues and he lived up to the same as he addressed the gathering of the Sangh Rakshaks during their third year annual training camps.
The Congress obviously quickly summed up his message as a “mirror of truth” for reminding the Sangh of India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness as an article of faith and soul of the country. The party also said Mukherjee reminded the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of his ‘Rajdharma’ and that “Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism”. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS headquarters had caused “wide-ranging discussion, comment, concern and even consternation amongst a large section of Indians, who have an innate belief in foundational values of democracy, pluralism, and diversity.” Other senior Congress leaders, including Ahmed Patel and Anand Sharma, had also raised objections on the former first citizen’s decision to accept this invite. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s confidant and her former political secretary, Patel had tweeted, “ I did not expect this from Pranab da!” Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma taking to Twitter wrote, “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,” adding “Dialogue can only be with those who are willing to listen, absorb and change.”
Tagging a morphed picture showing Pranab sporting the RSS cap, his daughter and Congress leader Sharmishtha Mukherjee said: “See, this is exactly what I was fearing and warned my father about. Not even few hours have passed, but BJP/RSS dirty tricks dept is at work in full swing!.”.
In his 30 minute address, the former President rightly highlighted that ‘Nationalism was not bound by race or religion’ and that ‘Hatred and Intolerance diluted national identity.’ In an obvious message to dissenting opinions of his former Congress colleagues, the ex-Prez stressed upon the need of dialogue adding ‘Political untouchability was no solution to differences in ideologies and as ‘Diversity and Acceptance’ were the bedrocks of Indian nationalism.
For the RSS it was his recall of the oft-quoted, ‘Vasudev Kutumbkum — the universe being one family, and for maintaining ‘harmony ‘ for unity. “India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, and one enemy. It is perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use 122 languages and 1,600 dialects, All of its major religions live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bharatiya and have no enemies.” Wading through India’s past, Mukherjee recalled how through 3,500 years of being ruled by dynasts, 5,000 years of civilizational unity India had remained unchanged while foreign elements were absorbed to create a new synthesis of national unity. “Multiplicity of cultures, faith, and languages makes us special,” Mukherjee repeated to 707 new passing out pracharaks. He carefully dotted his speech with quotes from S Radhakrishnan, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bal Gangadhar Tilak to hammer home his point. “When Tilak spoke of swaraj, he meant a swaraj for people encompassing all castes and religions and languages.”
Informed public engagement being essential in democracy as a dialogue is necessary not only to balance competing interests but also to reconcile them for the existence of the multiplicity of opinions cannot be denied were the other pertinent messages in his address.
Addressing the younbg recruits, the former President also commented on the “routine of violence” in the country, saying India may be the fastest growing economy but it was lagging on the World Happiness Index. “You are young. I must tell you that manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric. We must free public discourse of violence, both physical and verbal. We must move from anger and conflict to love and harmony. Our motherland is asking for happiness. Our motherland deserves happiness,” Mukherjee said as he marveled the fact that 1.3 billion Indians used 120 languages, 1,600 dialects, followed seven major religions, belonged to three ethnic groups and still stood united under one flag, one Constitution and one identity.
“When we go to Parliament, just above the lift at gate no. 6 is inscribed Kautilya’s quote “In the happiness of people lies the happiness of the king, their welfare is his welfare. The State is for the people. People are at the center of all activities of the State and nothing should be done to divide them. The aim of the State should be to galvanize them to fight a concerted war against poverty, disease and deprivation. Only then can we create a nation where nationalism flows automatically.”
Commenting on the visit of the former Prez, Bhagwat was right on the dot when he said, “Pranab Mukherjee will remain what he is and the Sangh will remain the Sangh even after the event. The RSS wants to unify the entire society and no one is an outsider for it. People may have different views but they are all children of mother India.” The former President also paid tributes to Sangh founder KB Hedgewar, calling him a “great son of Mother India”.
As expected, the statesman Mukherjee had outshone all his distractors, political pundits and many in the media too for each pearl of his well-expressed messages at this address. One does hope the visuals will not be altered by any vested groups for preserving the independence of his opinion and thoughts so important for our future generations!