Nagpur: Preparation is on in full swing at RSS headquarters in Nagpur for the concluding function of 'Tritiya Varsh Varg' (third-year course). Former President Pranab Mukherjee, who is the chief guest for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) function, has arrived in Nagpur.
The RSS event has generated a lot of interests and controversy ever since Pranab Mukherjee agreed to address the RSS trainees.
Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to arrive at the venue at 5:30 pm, where he will be welcomed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. He will then have tea with Mohan Bhagwat and RSS No. 2 Bhaiyyaji Joshi, after which senior functionaries of the Sangh will be introduced to him.
82-year-old Pranab Mukherjee will visit the memorial of RSS founder KB Hedgewar, offer floral tributes and reach the function venue at 6:15 pm. He is scheduled to make a 20-minute speech soon after.
Finally, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will address the gathering.
On Wednesday, Pranab Mukherjee's daughter and Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee disagreed with her father's decision of accepting the RSS invite. She also rubbished the rumours that she could switch to BJP.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi often accuses the RSS -- the ideological mentor of the BJP -- of trying to divide the country on religious lines and playing a major role in shaping government policy.
Former union minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that since Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the invitation, he should go and tell the RSS "what is wrong" in their ideology.
Last week, Ramesh Chennithala, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, wrote to Pranab Mukherjee, requesting him to not attend the event. "As a person who has served as the first citizen of our country and the greatest ambassador of secularism, I request you to reconsider your decision", said Chennithala.
West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said, "just like any other Congressman, I am really astonished".
"My question is does he (Pranab Mukherjee) think his previous comments against RSS were wrong," asked Adhir Chowdhury.
Congress veteran C K Jaffer Sharief had written to Pranab Mukherjee, saying he was "stunned" to hear about his decision to attend the RSS function.
There are some Congress leaders though who have backed the former president's move.
"Pranab Mukherjee is a secular person. He will always put forth a secular view which he will do there (at the RSS event) as well," said Sushil Kumar Shinde, a former union minister and senior Congress leader from Maharashtra.
Despite the voices of disapproval and requests to reconsider his decision, Pranab Mukherjee has remained firm on his decision.
"Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters, requests and phone calls, but I haven't responded to anyone yet," Pranab Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika.
Senior BJP leader and union minister Nitin Gadkari has welcomed Pranab Mukherjee's decision, calling it a good start. "Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of the invitation is a good start. Political untouchability is not good," Gadkari said.