The RSS just hosted a prominent personality at its headquarters in Nagpur. Opinions varied on the invitation to former president Pranab Mukherjee but the veteran Congress leader told his detractors, often within his own party, to wait for his speech.
The Congress seems to have a short memory. The Congress did not want Mukherjee to distance himself from the Sangh Parivar when he described the NDA government as “my government” between May 26, 2014 and July 24, 2017.
If the CPM wanted Somnath Chatterjee to resign as the speaker of the Lok Sabha after the party withdrew its support to the Congress-led UPA government in 2008, the Congress could not ask Mukherjee to resign as president when the BJP-led coalition came to power in 2014. The grand old party, however, tried to paint a picture that the former president was a true-blue Congress man from the day he left the office.
Mukherjee's speech in Nagpur on Thursday did little to reassure his party colleagues. His prepared speech was an introduction in history for the RSS workers. It contained nothing new for history students.
Mukherjee had no perspective to offer apart from the textbook exhortations of tolerance, secularism, diversity and internationalism. The crowd in Nagpur might have been bored. They have heard these umpteen times and learned to distrust any such suggestions.
Widely respected for his sharp memory, Mukherjee took a strange leap from India's independence in 1947 to the adoption of the constitution in 1950. Of course he told his audience to discard physical and verbal violence but he skipped the first terror attack in independent India - the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
He touched upon the views of Gandhi but conveniently forgot that Indian history is not complete without Gandhi' assassination by Nathuram Godse.
He also seems to have forgotten the political resolution he read out at the AICC meeting in 2010. His speech on Thursday was a class for the RSS without naming them. Was that enough? If he made the same speech in a place like Vishwabharati, it would not have been covered outside Bengal.
The Congress unwittingly helped the RSS agenda by stirring up a controversy about Mukherjee's decision to accept the invitation by the RSS.
The RSS game plan
Why did the RSS invite Mukherjee to its event? They knew that the Congress leader could not be trusted to eulogise them. He did not say that the RSS had any role in nation building. All he did was to write in a visitors' book that K B Hedgewar was “a great son of mother India”.
Still the RSS succeeded in projecting an image of tolerance by inviting a top leader from the rival camp. They also got valuable air space without spending a paisa. Many of the television programmes on Thursday centered around the organisation's origin and ideology.
The theory that the RSS was trying to stand up against the Modi-Shah axis in the BJP holds no water. It is foolish to think that the powerful duo is not in the good books of the parent organisation only because of stray incidents.
The RSS and the BJP want to widen its Hindu vote base by including even moderates. Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha nailed it when she said that the speech would be forgotten but the visuals would stay in memory.
The speech was not memorable anyway. The RSS is free to use the visuals as it chooses.