Pranab Mukherjee hosts lunch for RSS chief

Pranab Mukherjee hosts lunch for RSS chief

President Pranab Mukherjee hosted lunch for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Friday in what was described as a courtesy meeting before the former demits office next month.

There was no official word on the meeting but Rashtrapati Bhavan officials said it was a "kind of farewell" call.

Mukherjee had invited Bhagwat for the meeting, officials said, adding that both leaders had known each other for a long time.

Aides of Mukherjee and Bhagwat dismissed their interaction as "purely personal" and no political significance should be attached to it.

Mukherjee is due to host similar farewell meetings with leaders and personalities beloning to different sections before he retires on July 25.

As the outgoing president, Mukherjee will also be hosting lunch or dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Council of Ministers and opposition leaders.

Coming as it did before the presidential elections, Bhagwat's meeting with Mukherjee, however, triggered speculation about the choice of the next president in political circles. It came on a day senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu, who have been assigned the work of seeking a consensus with the Opposition parties concerning presidential candidate, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Mukherjee had ruled out a second term for himself in recent interactions with senior journalists, saying that he was demitting office with a "lot of satisfaction."

The Shiv Sena, which has consistently been pushing for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat as the next president, said a "Hindutva rubber stamp" should be installed at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Bhagwat, however, had categorically stated that he was not interested in the president's post.

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