Anguished at former president Pranab Mukherjee's decision to attend an RSS programme, a host of Congress leaders urged him to skip the event with a senior Kerala leader going to the extent of saying that his decision has invited "unparalleled disgruntlement" among party workers.
While the Congress officially said it did not like to comment on the matter, former finance minister P Chidambaram said there was no point in debating the issue as he has already accepted the invitation. But he advised Mukherjee, "I would say, Sir, now that you have accepted the invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology."
Senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP said it was "unfair" to judge a man from an invitation he accepts.
However, in a scathing letter, Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said his readiness to be the chief guest at the valedictory function of Sangh Shiksha Varg — a training camp for RSS volunteers in Nagpur on June 7 — came as a "rude shock" as it was organised by a "communal outfit" that has been "trying to divide the country on religious lines and to run the incumbent government by remote control.
"Being one of the tallest leaders of the great Indian National Congress, which has been responsible for preserving the secular fabric of this country, your decision has invited unparalleled disgruntlement among the rank and file of the Congress party," Chennithala said as he urged him to "reconsider" his decision.
Congress' West Bengal leader Adhir Chowdhury was "surprised" over Mukherjee's decision and said, "just like any other Congressman, I am really astonished to hear about it. My question is does he think his previous comments against the RSS were wrong...We still remember how Pranab Mukherjee as a senior leader of the Congress had criticised RSS as a communal and a divisive organisation".
He said he cannot say what prompted him to take such a decision.
Veteran Congressman from Karnataka C K Jaffer Sharief also shot off a letter to Mukherjee, expressing surprise over his decision and said he like other secular people was "stunned" to hear about his attending the RSS function.
"I personally think that a person of your stature, being secular and in politics for decades, having served in various capacity including the highest position of President, visiting Sangh Parivar at this point in time before Parliament elections is not proper," he said.
AICC Secretary and former Rajya Sabha MP Hanumantha Rao said the former president should withdraw his decision. "The RSS thinking is Hindutva. They are not secular. They want 'Hindu Desh'. How he can go?... He should not go," he said.