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Pranab Da Reaches Gates of Hindutva’s Sanctum Sanctorum, All Eyes on His Next Step

The former President's visit to Nagpur is being projected by the Sangh leadership as an end to its political untouchability. In the Congress party, however, it has caused considerable discomfiture.

Sumit Pande |

Updated:June 7, 2018, 7:37 AM IST
Nagpur: A huge billboard of Nana Patole stared down upon former President Pranab Mukherjee's motorcade slowly pulling out of the BR Ambedkar airport at Nagpur. Patole was the first BJP MP of the 2014 lot to quit Lok Sabha and join the Congress last year.

RSS joint general secretary V Bhagaiah received the former President at the airport along with several other leaders and accompanied him to Raj Bhawan on Wednesday evening, where Mukherjee would put up during his three-day visit to Maharashtra's winter capital.

In the downtown, away from the official protocol and bandobast of the Governor house, dress rehearsal for valedictory function of Sangh Seva Varga or third-year RSS training programme is on full swing.

Around 700 cadets from across the country march to drum beats while cadres in ganavesh, or Sangh prescribed uniform, practice combat drills with sticks. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat turned up later in the evening at the Reshimbagh Grounds to oversee preparations for Wednesday's programme.

Sangh Seva Vargh was earlier called the OTC, the officer training course. Seventeen cadets participated in the first one. At its annual general meeting in Nagpur earlier this year, Sangh claimed it now had a larger footprint than the area covered by AIR radio waves.

Electorally, Nagpur has been a Congress bastion since Independence. Both Dalits and Muslims are in sizeable numbers here. BJP had won here only twice, in 1996 and then in 2014 with Nitin Gadkari.

Local Congress leaders anxiously wait to hear what Pranab Da will say when the former president shares the dais with the RSS chief.

Congress’ deputy leader of the Maharashtra legislature, Vijay Wadettiwar, sees an RSS conspiracy in this entire exercises to provide heft to what he calls "Modi-Shah's dwindling electoral fortunes ahead of the next general elections."

“We are expecting the former President will not say anything in favour of the RSS,” says Wadettiwar.

In a recent interaction with journalists, a senior RSS leader reiterated Sangh’s attempt to engage with all mainstream mass-based organisations, including political parties.

“We have working relations with more than 60% political parties. It is not that we do not want to interact with them. They are a bit reluctant to be seen openly engaging with us,” said the leader.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to RSS headquarters in Nagpur is being projected in the same vain by the Sangh leadership. In the Congress party, however, it has caused considerable discomfiture.

The reasons are palpable and evident. Pranab Babu for one is an institution unto himself. A pukka dried in the wool Congressi who has authored many a political resolution during his days in active politics.

That includes the one passed at the 83th Plenary of the Congress Party at Burari, New Delhi. The resolution sought to “investigate links between the terrorists and the RSS and the sister organisations that have been uncovered in the recent cases”.

Fresh from a resounding victory in the 2009 general elections, the Congress had launched a scathing attack on the RSS. “The recent cases” was a reference to investigations in Malegaon and Mecca Masjid Blasts.

“It is the biggest challenge RSS is facing since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi,” a Sangh leader had then told this reporter.

The anxieties within the Sangh pending the investigations were obvious. It was a time when the international community was building a strong case against terror. In India, words like saffron terror had found a place in the political lexicon.

Those were challenging times for saffron brotherhood under the leadership of its newly-nominated Sarsanghchalak Mohan Rao Bhagwat.

Ten years later, Bhagwat will share the dais with Mukherjee at the Sangh headquarters - the garbha griha or the sanctum Sanctorum of Hindutva as a political ideology.

| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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