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Opinion
Pranab Da makes a visit but why now?
By Badri Raina
Was one of the motives to undercut Rahul Gandhi as he prepares to appear before a Bhiwandi Court on the issue if 'RSS Involvement' in the Gandhi Assassination?



In current parlance, here is my "takeaway" on Pranab Mukerjee's so tantalizing visit to the RSS Headquarters in Nagpur:

First, why was he invited? However Mohan ji Bhagwat may have underplayed the occurrence as a rather routine and innocent one, the invite was clearly loaded with political purpose.

That India is now run by an RSS-led Bharatiya Janata Party is all very well, but inviting a former President of the Republic to RSS's organizational den is quite another matter.

One thing is for sure: as Bhagwat cannily said in a speech intended to forestall the chief address of the evening, there was no intention to learn new things from the sagacious Mr Mukerjee. Dialogue may have been lauded but it was always going to be a dialogue of the deaf. Leopards do not change their spots because someone of great pharmaceutical knowledge brings them a new brand of soap.

The event, let us not fool ourselves, was smartly intended to enhance the political acceptability of the Sangh. After all, Mr Mukerjee did end up endorsing the late Hedgewar as a great son of India. Coming from a former President-an office that watches over the Constitutional uprightness of the realm-this was a coup. That Mr Mukerjee, in deference to the office he had held lastly, did not insist on the national tricolour to be unfurled or the national anthem to be sung must be counted as further acquiescence to a body of thought that accepted the tricolour some two years after Independence as a tactical necessity in order that the ban on it could be lifted in 1949.

A second purpose that the RSS could well have had in mind is to cause disruption among thinking Congress men and women with respect to the propriety or otherwise of Mr Mukerjee making such a visit-under the present conditions, a most useful thing to do from the point of view of the Sangh. Although the Congress has come to quickly clear the ground on this, post Mr Mukerjee's speech at Nagpur, the RSS can claim to have had some success in causing a flutter among Congess men and women. Indeed Mr Mukerjee's own daughter felt obliged to publicly underscore her father's naivete in the matter, and the ways in which the Sangh propaganda machinery would not but use his visit, in fair and foul manner; think that already there is a video doing the rounds which shows Mr Mukerjee with a black RSS cap on his head.

A third purpose might have been to undercut Rahul Gandhi as he prepares to show up at a Bhiwandi court to answer charges of defamation against the RSS on June 12.

So why did Mr Mukerjee accept the invitation, given that he is no RSS man, although, interestingly, in his speech of all the foreign interventions and incursions he counted he cited only Muslims as "invaders."

There can be no doubt that the thought of telling off the Sangh view of nationalism, identity, culture, patriotism in a speech delivered in their den must have seemed an act of great political enhancement, This need not be denied, But it would grossly be underrating Mr Mukerjees's acumen to think that he went there hoping he would teach the RSS a lesson they would actually learn. Just as Bhagwat ji explicitly did not think that Mr Mukerjee would be converted to the Sangh cause once he was welcomed at Nagpur.

In this context, Mr Mukerjee's sense of occasion must be lauded: after all as clips from his speech will continue to be aired, he will continue to be praised for having articulated a critique that others, including Rahul Gandhi, are upbraided for voicing in and out. It must be conceded that in this Mr Mukerjee understood how he could bear the weight of the office he had held before Shri Kovind took over to put on record a view of pluralist nationalism and composite culture that had informed and driven the freedom movement. That his articulation here was ringing and unambiguous must go to his great credit and hopefully to the aid of many struggling to push back revanchist and communal alternatives. In recalling western nationalisms after the Westphalia Treaty of 1648 which came to be based on univocal axis of religion, language, race, Mr. Mukerjee did well obliquely to suggest that after all the nationalism that the RSS espouses is more western in character than indigenous. A monumental irony there! Whereas the national movement built by multifaceted Indian leaderships was uniquely inclusive, pluralist, assimilatve and therefore, had secularism as the soul and article of faith. For this, one must be thankful to Mr. Mukerjee.

Where will this event lead, if anywhere? To put the matter baldly, can Mr. Mukerjee hope that as a result of his ringing articulation of the Nehruvian view of our modern history the Indian National Congress might call upon him to be the face of the new opposition which is now in the making. After all, the post of the Republic's chief executive is one he has always thought his deserving.

The anwser must be that this is highly unlikely. Fresh enthusiastic Congress cadres may not be expected to give up easily on Rahul Gandhi.

But that still leaves scope in Mr.Mukerjee's likely considerations, that a "third Front "of secular formations may indeed call upon him to take the lead to give Mr. Modi a Presidential-type of contest, come 2019. This cannot be ruled out. Should such a thing eventuate, the Congress would indeed be put to considerable difficulty in working out its options-a circumstance that may thus altogether go to favour the possibility of a Modi come back.

For now, the RSS may not gloat too much at the visit, given that Mr Mukerjee very squarely poured cold water on its ideological world-view. However astute Bhagwat ji's formulations were, inevitably the notion of a Hindu Rashtra remained central to its projection. And only the very gullible would argue that this view will see a secular and pluralist transformation as a result of Mr Mukerjee's intervention. The Sangh has never till now repudiated the notion of a Savarkarite citizenship of India or Golwalkers' stipulations on being Muslim in India. Till such repudiation happens, in all likelihood never, the Sangh,however it pitches for supremacy, will remain the "other" of mainstream Republican thought.

It will be interesting to see, nonetheless, how influential media houses play out the event of Mr Mukerjee's visit. This for the reason that the obscene centralization of wealth now in India-a Corporate dream always-will not but continue to push Corporate media owners to tilt in favour of an equally centralized political dispensation in which democratic processes and idealisms about equity and welfare are relegated to lip service at husting times.

It is tempting to stipulate that none of these tactical pushes and pulls may come to be any great account in the next General Elections; one has the gut feeling that a wave of anger now in evidence across the length and breadth of the country may reduce electoral minutae to irrelevance.

(This article was first published in Sabrang)


News Updated at : Tuesday, June 12, 2018
 
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