New Delhi, May 30: As the invitation to former President Pranab Mukherjee by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for an event at its headquarters in Nagpur has turned into a political controversy, the Sangh on Tuesday said eminent personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, former prime minister Indira Gandhi and others had attended their events in the past.

Ratan Sharda, author and member of RSS’ national media team, said Mahatma Gandhi had participated in the organisation’s events. The Vivekanand Rock Memorial was unveiled by Indira Gandhi in 1977 and the then prime minister was invited by senior RSS functionary Eknath Ranade, the architect of the memorial, Sharda claimed.

Counting those attacking Pranab Mukherjee for accepting RSS invitation, Sharda said the first prime minister of the country Jawahar Lal Nehru had invited over 3,000 Sangh volunteers along with several other organisations and NGOs to take part in the Republic Day parade in 1963.

“Nehru was impressed with the services of Sangh volunteers at the borders during the war with China in 1962. He invited Sangh volunteers to the 1963 Republic Day parade to imbibe the spirit of nationalism,” the RSS leader was quoted as saying. In a statement, the Sangh said that it’s the greatness of Mukherjee to accept their invitation to address their workers in Nagpur.

“This isn’t surprising for those who know and understand the Sangh, because RSS has always invited prominent people of the society in its programmes. This time, we invited Dr Pranab Mukherjee and it’s his greatness that he has accepted our invitation,” read a statement from RSS.

Pranab Mukherjee will address the Third Year Sangha Shiksha Varga (SSV) on June 7, which is held at the RSS headquarters annually in Nagpur. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be the keynote speaker at the function. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that there should be no problem if the former President visits RSS event.

The Congress has adopted ‘wait and watch’ strategy. However, former union minister CK Jaffer Shareif urged him to reconsider his decision in the interest of secularism. Mukherjee, 82, worked closely with former prime minister Indira Gandhi as well as Rajiv Gandhi. He was the finance minister in the UPA-II government headed by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.