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Breaking Views: Pranab’s RSS HQ Visit Bigger News Than His Speech

What are the political implications of Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at RSS event in Nagpur?

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Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

Former president Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur on 7 June will go down as one of the most talked about speeches by a public figure in recent times.

Mukherjee chose to take a diplomatic stance and remained steadfast about his views on patriotism, nationalism and secularism.

My biggest takeaway from the episode was that Mukherjee’s visit to Nagpur still makes bigger news than the content of his speech. By inviting a veteran Congress man, the RSS wanted to send out a message.

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Mukherjee Said Nothing in Praise of the Sangh

Ahead of the speech, a section of political leaders and commentators expressed concern about the contents of his speech, warning him against promoting the RSS. However, during his 27-minute-long address to RSS cadre at their Nagpur fort, the former president did not praise the Sangh or its activities. Instead, rejecting the idea of religion or caste-based discrimination, Mukherjee said:

At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal... It is our composite culture that makes us into a nation. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one entity. 

A day before his address, the former president's daughter and Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee had expressed her disapproval of his decision.

She said he was giving the BJP and the Sangh a handle to plant false stories in his name, pointing out that while his "speech will be forgotten", the "visuals will remain".

We’ll have to wait to see if Sharmistha was right. But there is no reason for the Sangh to refrain from using the former president’s face as a means to advance their political footprint in his home state of West Bengal.

(This video was first published on Quint Hindi)

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