Former president Pranab Mukherjee today provided images that his lifelong party, the Congress, found hard to digest as he stood at attention at an RSS event, flanked by white and khaki-clad Sangh leaders saluting the saffron flag.
Carrying the weight of his party's disapproval, Mr Mukherjee, 82, delivered messages on India's history of tolerance, inclusion and pluralism.
"We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism... Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity," he said.
In the 30-minute speech, he never once mentioned the RSS but did quote Jawaharlal Nehru, the biggest icon of his sulking party, as saying: "Nationalism can only come with the fusion of all castes, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh. This doesn't mean there is extinction of each separately but of unity together."
The former president also said: "Everyday we see an increasing violence around us, there is a darkness at the heart of this."
Somewhat ameliorated, many Congress leaders interpreted the speech as a big message to the RSS.
Mr Mukherjee was earlier warmly welcomed at the nerve-centre of the RSS in Nagpur ahead of the event that he attended despite fierce objections from the Congress
"Images of Pranab Da, veteran leader and ideologue at RSS Headquarters have anguished millions of Congress workers," tweeted senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, one of the many leaders who had reportedly tried to talk him out of the visit.
Mr Mukherjee breezed through photo-ops with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who took him on a guided tour of the Sangh complex. The Press Trust of India quoted sources as saying that his visit to the memorial for KB Hegdewar, the founder of the RSS, was unscheduled.