Dear Citizen Mukherjee:
My hearty congratulations on accepting to deliver the valedictory address at the RSS training camp.
You have gone beyond being a party-man to being a statesman; one who belongs to the entire country. A former president should be just that. My respect for you has only gone up. At Raisina Hills you brought dignity and grace to the office. You come as a bright contrast to pigmies who defame others while holding high office.
You must have already marshaled your thoughts on what to speak. Just in case you missed some, here are my two-bits. First up, do not feel aggrieved if someone says you are not an outstanding orator. Under the circumstances, it’s a big plus. You will not be overtaken by the moment and resort to bombast. You will go with a script. Most importantly, you will practice it so hard, that it will come out of the heart.
As a citizen of India who lived on both sides of the liberalization divide, who has seen the modernity of our country, and loves its secular fabric, I will like to see you speak on three issues. Not demonetization; not GST; not black money. These are blips on the radar. Talk about the radar itself.
Your audience loves acronyms. Give them one. VHP. No puns intended.
‘V’ for vision. Ask them to have a vision. Of an India that is beyond slogans. A country where each citizen has an overarching personal vision; a nation that celebrates a free media. Judges who nurture an independent judiciary; a political system that eschews hatred; a country that swears by probity and establishes a Lok-Pal. A population with employable and upgradeable skills; Tell them that if we fail to do all this, GDP growth notwithstanding we will hurtle towards a banana republic. There will be the naysayers, the whataboutery: ignore them.
‘H’ for hate. Ask them to eschew Hate campaigns. People can have different points of views and yet live together. That is the precise idea of secularism. You can be a Bengali or a Tamil, a Hindu or a Muslim, a BJP voter or a Congress voter, a CSK supporter or an MI fan: it doesn’t matter because in the end all of us are Indians. Ask them to judge issues with a perspective. A petrol price increase in a UPA regime when oil prices were going up is the same when it happens in the NDA regime. Tell them to wear the other guys’ shoes before commenting. Tell them to identify all those faceless, nameless, trolls who sit abroad, who have given up Indian citizenships, and pontificate on India and about how Indian should do this and do that.
Citizen Mukherjee, do talk to them of patriotism, which is so very different from nationalism or fundamentalism. Patriotism is love for the country. Nationalism is love for the country and hatred for others. Patriotism can never be, “my country, right or wrong.” Tell them what Hinduism is all about. Tell them as it to be told that down the years India’s greatest merit was its secular fabric. Din into them that what we need is growth and development, not crass communalism and hatred.
You should of course also tell them that you are not just addressing the millions of Indians outside that hall. Given the climate your talk, it will be nationally televised. It is your one great opportunity to show the world that you genuinely love India, and you can really rise beyond politics, beyond the current swim, and look ahead with sobriety.
It’s an opportunity not given to many. You have been given one. You have the stature and standing. Use it, Sir. It’s more than a convocation address.