Muhammad Ali Jinnah's name still stirs cauldron of Indian politics and Akhilesh Yadav learns it the hard way

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The bogey of founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, has once again been raised as Uttar Pradesh prepares for the Assembly elections —scheduled for early next year.

This time the credit of raising the issue goes to Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav for "comparing" Muhammad Ali Jinnah with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

As India’s most politically important state gears up for an election, here’s why Jinnah continues to be a cause of incendiary in Indian politics.

Jinnah reference puts Akhilesh Yadav in a tough spot

On Monday, the BJP, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and BSP president Mayawati all hit out at Akhilesh Yadav for speaking of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Jinnah on Sunday in the same breath as leaders who fought for India's Independence.

The entire incident occurred when the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, in an address at an event in Hardoi on Sunday, had lavished praise on Patel on his 146th birth anniversary but also appeared to equate the four leaders, including Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

"Sardar Patel, Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Jinnah studied in the same institute and became barristers. They helped (India) get freedom and never backed away from any struggle," Yadav had said.

This comment raised a political uproar, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath calling his statement "shameful" and seeking an apology.

Adityanath was quoted by PTI as saying, "I was listening to Akhilesh ji's statement yesterday. He was comparing Jinnah, who divided the country, with Sardar Patel, who brought the nation together. This is a shameful statement."

He said, "Talibani mentality believes in breaking society. Sometimes it is in the name of caste... When they are not succeeding, they are raising fingers at 'mahapurush' (great personalities) and insulting the entire society."

The chief minister said this cannot be accepted and everyone should condemn it. "Yadav should regret his statement as insulting Sardar Patel will not be accepted."

Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya slammed Yadav, saying, "If Akhilesh Yadav is called Akhilesh Ali Jinnah, then there will be no difference. By taking the name of Jinnah, he has shown disrespect to countless people who sacrificed their lives for the country. He has also insulted Sardar Patel by indulging in politics of appeasement."

"Despite studying in the same university, one person (Jinnah) divided the country, while the other (Sardar Patel) united it. Yadav should immediately tender an apology to the country and the people," Maurya added.

In a tweet in Hindi, BSP chief Mayawati alleged that Yadav's remarks and the BJP's response to them are part of a well-thought-out strategy of the two parties to vitiate the atmosphere on Hindu-Muslim lines ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.

Owaisi also criticised Yadav's remarks, saying that Muslims who stayed in India had rejected Jinnah's two-nation theory and the SP leader should talk about the present.

Other Jinnah-related rows

This is not the first time that Jinnah has sparked a political uproar in India.

Notably, in 2005, veteran BJP leader LK Advani had resigned as party president following widespread criticism from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and right-wing outwits over his remarks praising Jinnah during his six-day visit to Pakistan. Advani had described Jinnah as a "secular" leader.

In a visit to the Pakistan founder's mausoleum in Karachi, the then BJP president wrote, "There are many people who leave an in-erasable stamp on history. But there are very few who actually create history."

Advani further wrote, "Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual."

Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh also faced wrath over his Jinnah comments. In his book Jinnah- India, Partition, Independence, Singh blamed the Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru for the partition of India and opined that Jinnah was "demonised". It also made a critical reference to Sardar Patel and was banned in Gujarat. Singh was expelled for his opinion.

As recently as 2018, a portrait of the Pakistan founder at the students' union office in Aligarh Muslim University also stoked a row with a BJP MP demanding that the image be removed.

Why Jinnah continues to anger some in India

India continues to suffer from the wounds inflicted by Partition. According to many, the sole blame for this goes to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who led a massive political movement around the idea that Hindus and Muslims could not live together and hence, the birth of Pakistan, for Muslims, was necessary.

History says that after taking over the leadership of the Muslim League in 1937, Jinnah launched a campaign, displaying the Congress as pro-Hindu and opined that Muslims would be persecuted in Hindu-dominated independent India.

In his book, Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History, Swedish political scientist and author of Pakistani descent Ishtiaq Ahmed wrote that he was adamant about partitioning India even though the Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru tried till the very last moment to change his mind and keep India united.

Sharjeel Imam in The Wire writes, "The overwhelming attitude, especially among Hindus, is that of anger and lamentation, especially given Jinnah’s nationalist background."

With inputs from agencies

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah's name still stirs cauldron of Indian politics and Akhilesh Yadav learns it the hard way
Muhammad Ali Jinnah's name still stirs cauldron of Indian politics and Akhilesh Yadav learns it the hard way
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