Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday hailed Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as "a great son of Mother India", leading to raised eyebrows in many quarters.
"Today I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India," Mukherjee wrote in the visitor's book as he visited Hedgewar's birthplace, accompanied by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. The Hedgewar home was also the venue of the first ever meeting of the RSS, which he founded in September 1925.
Accorded a warm welcome at the RSS headquarters, Mukherjee was shown around the Hedgewar memorial premises which includes a small temple. Mukherjee, a Congress party veteran, was in Nagpur to address the RSS cadre at the organisation's final leg of three-year training programme called the 'Tritiya Varsh Varg'.
His visit to the RSS HQ has raised many an eyebrow, including in his own party. His comments on Hedgewar have only served to raise eyebrows even further, leaving many commentators anguished.
The RSS was banned on February 4, 1948 following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The ban was lifted on July 11, 1949 after then Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar gave an undertaking that the organisation would abide by the Indian Constitution. Pranab Mukherjee also paid tributes to Golwalkar in Nagpur on Thursday.
With IANS inputs.