FORMER President Pranab Mukherjee has been a difficult political personality to gauge. If the marked absence of an insider’s revelation in his many books is an indication, his real motive behind the visit to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on Thursday may never be revealed. That Pranab Da was a cut above the callow crowd that thronged Congress offices was established when Indira Gandhi handpicked him for her Council of Ministers. Pranab Da, though, remained a backroom operator; his first successful encounter with electoral politics was when he was a ripe 69.But as a man in the bullring of New Delhi’s politics for well over four decades, he would have factored in the net effect of his Nagpur sojourn on the Congress’s battle plans for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections against an enemy Pranab Da has sought to legitimise. It certainly cannot be attributed to ignorance of the exigencies of mass politics. It is also juvenile to assume that one single address from the RSS rostrum would elicit a change of heart among its spear carriers when his countless denunciations in Parliament, and from the pulpit at Rashtrapati Bhavan, failed to do so. On the contrary, Citizen Mukherjee may have catapulted a nondescript RSS event into a prime time viewing spectacle. And if his speech at the RSS headquarters is parsed, there is always ground for doubt that Pranab Da had, apart from a few boilerplate observations, tailored his address for the occasion. Pranab Mukherjee is certainly a free man. But it would be naïve to assume that his innings as President has magically transformed him into an apolitical individual. Congress in the past has intermittently flirted with the RSS. At least one comprehensive Congress Lok Sabha sweep was adduced to a tacit understanding between its backroom boys and the RSS. Was Pranab Da paying back for past association or was this his payback to a party that withheld from him the chalice of supreme executive authority in the form of the PM’s post? But what is of little doubt is Citizen Mukherjee’s unexplained ingenuity has left his old party at an embarrassingly loose end.