Bengaluru: It’s indeed a sad day as former President Pranab Mukherjee passed away after being on ventilator for a long time. He had undergone a clot removal surgery and then, unfortunately, his condition slipped and worsened.  

A versatile personality in the literal sense, Pranab da, as he was endearingly referred to, was a man with phenomenal knowledge across diverse fields.

He even respected secularism in its truest sense and believed in listening to dissenting views.

A case in point. After demitting office as the President of India, he was invited as a chief guest in an RSS function Sangh Shiksha Varg in Nagpur.

The RSS specifically cherry-picked him because it knew very well that Pranab da had a gargantuan following of his own and a leader of his calibre, attending the event, would send a strong message to the Gandhi-Nehru family. Apart from this, the RSS also wanted to ensure that it is not a political untouchable because a member and leader not belonging to the Gandhi-Nehru family, had a heart to hear them and express his views.

In fact, when Pranab da spoke, he praised Hedgewar, founder of RSS, profusely and eulogised him as “a great son of Mother India.”

He even did not mince words paying great encomiums to Sardar Patel. He also recalled his contributions of the great leader in consolidation of states after Independence.

Well, Pranab da’s great willingness to share stage with Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS and rub shoulders with the members of the organisations reiterated and reemphasised that there is no one who should be relegated and humiliated. Instead, it is always better to have a dialogue with them and understand the dissenting views.

Remember, the Congress never has feelings of accommodation towards the RSS. They always view it as an organisation that divides people.


But Pranab’s move to accept the invitation and attend the event was a slap on their face.

It certainly came as a bolt from the blue and the entire cadre was caught unawares!

Anand Sharma, a senior Congress had said thus: “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.”

Another senior leader Manish Tewari said thus: "May I ask you a question that you still have not answered that is bothering millions of secularists and pluralists. Why did you choose to go to the RSS headquarters and deliver homilies on nationalism?

Other leaders like Jairam Ramesh, P Chidambaram also did not mince words in establishing their harshness.

But what was most emphatic and palpable among all the criticisms was the one issued by Pranab’s own daughter Sharmishta Mukherjee.

She had said, “Hope @CitiznMukherjee now realises from todays’ incident, how BJP dirty tricks dept operates. Even RSS wouldn’t believe that u r going 2 endorse its views in ur speech. But the speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain & those will be circulated with fake statements.”

Well, there you are! A party that brags and boasts about its secularism and freedom of speech and expression, dissenting views did not think twice before issuing calumnies against the former President.

Didn’t secularism die a thousand deaths?