Mukherjee's decision to accept the RSS invite to its headquarters in June 2018, a year after he had completed his stint at Rashtrapati Bhawan, may have rankled Congress leaders, but was not a big surprise to those who knew he had good equations with them since his days as President of India.
In his speech at the RSS office, the astute politician hailed its founder KB Hedgewar as a “true son of Mother India” but also quoted Jawaharlal Nehru, thus keeping both sides happy. While RSS gloated that a Congress leader and former Rashtrapati had visited its headquarters, the Grand Old Party said he had shown the mirror to the RSS.
However, this visit was not the first instance of Mukherjee’s interaction with the RSS or its Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. As the latter recalled in his glowing condolence message, Mukherjee had invited him to Rashtrapati Bhawan twice for lunch during his tenure. The two met three-four times later as well after his term ended.
Bhagwat was impressed with Mukherjee’s friendliness and said he felt like he was meeting an elder from his family. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, “I was new to Delhi in 2014. From Day 2, I was blessed to have the guidance, support and blessings of Shri Pranab Mukherjee.”
Though Mukherjee was a die-hard Congressman, his troubled relations with Rajiv Gandhi - who was targeted by the BJP during the Bofors scam - and his proximity to Narasimha Rao (who made him Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission) made him a likeable person for the saffron party.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would always be at the receiving end of BJP barbs as the main opposition called him a weak, maun (mute) PM who bowed to the US. This put all the responsibility of dealing with an aggressive BJP under LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on the shoulders of Mukherjee. While the three never liked Singh, they respected Mukherjee, who was one year senior to Advani in Parliament (he became a Rajya Sabha MP in 1969, Advani in 1970).
In February 2009, Advani had acknowledged this in Lok Sabha. “Sometimes I think that if Pranab Da had not been there, what would this UPA government do,” he said to Mukherjee.
In his tribute, Advani said on Monday, “To me personally, he was more than a colleague and we have shared valuable moments both inside and outside of our public lives, which extended even to our families. The memories of various lunches we shared together will always be special in my heart.”
Later, as President of India, Mukherjee would often host senior BJP leaders for lunch at Rashtrapati Bhawan and guide them on political issues.
Several BJP parliamentarians looked up to Mukherjee and learnt from his style of functioning. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad often recalls that when he became a Rajya Sabha MP for the first time, he went to Advani to seek advice on how to go about his job. One of the important suggestions from Advani was that he should watch and learn from Mukherjee in Parliament.
When Narendra Modi went to Rashtrapati Bhawan to stake claim to form the government after BJP’s impressive victory in 2014, Mukherjee had reportedly told him that his decision to contest from Varanasi was a masterstroke as people from Uttar Pradesh always feel the Prime Minister has to be from their state. BJP won 71 (NDA got 73) out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2014.
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1 Comment on this Story
Binu Pillai148 days ago
Opportunist guy who started chanting modi modi ... to remain cringed to the President position but Modi didn't give him extension. Later he started taking classes for RSS... Such inclination helped him to be a "BHAKTH" otherwise the BJP IT Cell coolies would have abused his name all over Social media and forums.