Bengaluru, Sep 1 (PTI) Senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Siddaramaiah on Tuesday paid rich tributes to Pranab Mukharjee lauding his intellect and long service to the nation, but expressed regret over the former president attending an RSS event in 2018.
Mukherjee (84), the 13th President of the country, died at an army hospital in New Delhi on Monday, and his last rites were performed on Tuesday.
Speaking at a condolence meet organised by the Karnataka Congress here, Kharge said 'I have only one regret, this is not the time to say it, but still.... such an intelligent (Mukherjee), who could remember all subjects and had command in history, religion, politics...
'The person who could resolve disputes and chaired about 50 groups of Ministers because of his acumen to build consensus...why did he go to the RSS office during his final years, I could not understand,' he said.
Kharge, a former union minister, said, he had questions in his mind about that episode, because Mukharjee had belief in Nehruism, he believed in Indira Gandhi's philosophy.
Though Mukherjee had differences with Rajiv Gandhi and was outside the party for about four years, he later came back, he noted.
'...I had a question within me as to why an intellect like him (Mukherjee) had gone to such a place and wanted to tell him about it, but did not have an opportunity to speak to him one-to-one on this matter,' he lamented.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah too concurred with Kharge's sentiments on the issue.
'As Kharge said, it is still a big mystery to me that after such a long stint in Congress after completing his term as the President he gave a speech at RSS shibir, the organisation that killed Mahatma Gandhi...I still don't understand why he went there. In my personal opinion he should not have gone there,' he said.
Alleging that RSS was a communal organisation, Siddaramaiah said going there and giving a speech at its event after 50 years of political career and lifelong association with Congress 'is a painful thing'.
'...whatever it is, he did not give an explanation why he had gone there,' Siddaramaiah added.
The Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly also called Mukharjee 'ajatashatru' (some one who doesn't have enemy) and said he had all the capabilities but could not become the Prime Minister.
Mukherjee was earlier criticised by the Congress in June 2018 for attending the event of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
But later, the Congress was all appreciation after Mukherjee in his speech emphasised that the soul of India was pluralism, tolerance and inclusion. PTI KSU VS VS