Congress in India hurt as party veteran Pranab hails founder of ‘fascist’ RSS

India’s Congress, which views Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a “fascist” organisation, was embarrassed on Thursday when party veteran and former president of the country Pranab Mukherjee called RSS founder K B Hedgewar as a “great son of Mother India.”

Mukherjee had accepted RSS invitation defying opposition from Congress leaders because he wanted to speak on nationalism and patriotismBefore Mukherjee arrived at the RSS office in Nagpur to deliver the speech, he made an unscheduled visit to the birthplace of Hedgewar.

Mukherjee wrote in the guest book  at Hedgewar’s home that he came to pay homage to “a great son of Mother India,” a view no Congress worker can accept.

It was at Hedgewar’s home that the first meeting of RSS was held in the 1920s.

Later, addressing the participants at the RSS training camp, Mukherjee said the hallmark of India’s culture is tolerance and diversity.

Its national identity which evolved over centuries is linked to the confluence and assimilation of multiple cultures and faiths. India should celebrate its tolerance and diversity and derive strength from them, he said.

Nationhood cannot be linked to a dogma, religion or region. Such a narrow view will breed hatred and intolerance and dilute India’s national identity, he warned.

The State should galvanise people, not divide them. It should remove poverty, disease and deprivation for nationalism to thrive, he said.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said debates in media and Congress party ahead of Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS office were needless as the organisation had invited many such eminent people across the spectrum.

Mukherjee’s decision to address the RSS disappointed several Congress leaders. On Wednesday, his own daughter and Congress leader Sharmishtha appealed to him to reconsider the decision for the sake of secularism.

After Mukherjee’s RSS office visit, various parties interpreted his speech differently to suit their own interests. His visit to Hedgewar’s home remained largely ignored.