‘The idea was to give the former President the space to express his dissent, in case needed’.
The decision to let former President Pranab Mukherjee speak at the end of an RSS event he attended on Thursday evening was taken on that morning itself, sources in the RSS told The Sunday Guardian. This was a departure from past traditions when the closing remark was reserved for the RSS chief in RSS-organised events. According to RSS functionaries, who were closely associated with the event, the RSS leadership decided that Mukherjee should be given the opportunity to speak in the end so that he could freely express his sentiments and also put forward any objections, which he might have had after listening to the speech of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
“It was a big decision on part of the RSS leadership. The reason behind altering the tradition was to give the former President the space to express his dissent, if there were any. What if the RSS chief spoke at the end and said something that was seen as controversial by Mukherjee? He would have thought that despite being on the stage he was not able to raise his objections. Hence, it was decided that Mohan Bhagwat would speak first and if Mukherjee finds anything objectionable, he can respond then and there. This was something that had not happened before,” the source said.
According to them, the RSS was not aware of the content of Mukherjee’s speech and it was not “vetted” by RSS functionaries before Mukherjee spoke. “The RSS chief, during his speech, focused on accommodating dissent, giving space to differences of opinion and taking along everyone even if differences of opinion exist. Even if Mukherjee had said something that was against the principle of RSS, it would not have ‘hurt’ us because the whole point behind inviting Mukherjee was to hear the views and opinions of someone who has not been associated with us,” he added.