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Nagpur's Message for New Delhi: Not Congress-Mukt Bharat, But Dynasty-Free Congress

While the Congress gave its thumbs up to Pranab Mukherjee's speech, they haven’t been able to hide their unhappiness at his presence at the RSS headquarters.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:June 9, 2018, 11:28 AM IST
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Nagpur's Message for New Delhi: Not Congress-Mukt Bharat, But Dynasty-Free Congress
File photo of former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and ex-president Pranab Mukherjee. (PTI)
New Delhi: Politicians rarely retire. And if he happens to be Pranab Mukherjee, then keeping the political bug out is even more difficult.

The former president's presence and speech at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event have many political spin-offs. First, Mukherjee wanted to send a clear message — that he has cut his umbilical cord with the Congress and is his own man now.

In fact, he always was one. Perhaps, that explains why Sonia Gandhi overlooked him for the top job and chose Manmohan Singh who was junior to Mukherjee in political expertise and experience. Though the Congressman is very careful not to speak about it openly, his injury is pretty evident.

But it is in moments like these that Mukherjee shows the Congress leaders who he is.

While the Congress gave its thumbs up to Mukherjee's speech, they haven’t been able to hide their unhappiness at his presence at the RSS headquarters, especially at a time when Rahul Gandhi’s politics has been strongly anti-RSS.

But what about the other political parties? While many within the opposition may not be happy with Mukherjee at the RSS event, they don’t want to make a big deal out of it. After all, Mukherjee went to the podium as a former president.

But for many of the opposition parties like Trinamool Congress (TMC), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), who seek a non-Congress, non-BJP front against Modi, Mukherjee could emerge as that consensus candidate who no one may have a problem with.

While most of the opposition parties that News18 spoke to say there is still a long way to go and it is too early to speak of any consensus candidate, Mukherjee's chances cannot be ignored. However, there are some parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP) who have clearly ruled out Mukherjee as Prime Minister. It was Mulayam Singh Yadav who had opposed Mukherjee's name for president, initially.

But, Mulayam Singh's non-approval aside, Mukherjee comes with some advantages. He has vast experience, enjoys a good rapport with most opposition parties and even with the BJP. More importantly, he is no longer seen as a Congress face anymore. His going to the RSS event has ensured that he is now to be seen as the man who once again took on the Congress.

Mukherjee has always been seen as a man who has a mind of his own. Which is why, there is and always will be a trust deficit between him and the Gandhis.

The Congress hasn't missed any part of his speech. Pranab calling the RSS founder KB Hedgewar “great son of mother India” and skipping a mention of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination have not missed their attention. For them, this is proof enough that Mukherjee may have crossed over to the other side.

But the RSS, too, seems to have made a political point. The Sangh is not seen to be anti-Congress, but rather anti-Gandhis. And the more Rahul Gandhi holds the RSS responsible for the assassination of the Mahatma, the RSS would want to use Congress leaders (sans the Gandhis) as an endorsement of their ideology. The perfect example of which was Pranab Mukherjee.

For them, Mukherjee is the best face of the Congress and it suits them to use this visit repeatedly to snub the Gandhis.

But it's not just a message which RSS wants to send to the Gandhis. To some within the RSS who are uncomfortable with the Congress-mukt slogan of the BJP, an invite to Mukherjee is a subtle message to the BJP as well. The message is clear — not everyone associated with the Congress is a pariah. And some within the RSS who may not be comfortable with the Amit Shah-Modi duo wouldn't mind nudging the Pranab card.

But the final decision rests with the man himself. He may not be keen to be dragged into this political slugfest, but he has once again showed his political use is not yet over.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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