New Delhi: Walking in the footsteps of party senior L.K. Advani, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh has called Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah “a great Indian”, saying he was “demonized”.
In an interview to CNN-IBN channel, the former external affairs minister blamed India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for the Partition.
“Nehru believed in a highly centralized polity. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity. That even Gandhi accepted. Nehru didn’t. Consistently, he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India,” Jaswant Singh told Karan Thapar in “Devil’s Advocate”, which will be aired on CNN-IBN Sunday and Monday.
Jaswant Singh strongly contested the popular Indian view that Jinnah was the villain of the 1947 partition or the man principally responsible for it. Asked if he thought this view was wrong, Jaswant Singh said: “It is. It is not borne out of the facts… we need to correct it.”
“I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon… We needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the subcontinent was the partition of the country,” Singh said.
His praise for Jinnah comes ahead of the BJP’s three-day ‘Chintan Baithak’ (brainstorming session) to begin in Shimla Aug 19.
The BJP has also been maintaining that it has not changed its resolution on Jinnah that was adopted in 2005 against the backdrop of Advani’s visit to Pakistan and his comments appreciating Jinnah.
Jaswant Singh, whose biography on Jinnah would be released Monday, said he did not subscribe to the popular demonization of Jinnah and said he was attracted by the personality of the Pakistani leader.
“Of course I don’t (subscribe to the popular demonization of Jinnah). To that I don’t subscribe. I was attracted by the personality which has resulted in a book. If I was not drawn to the personality I wouldn’t have written the book. It’s an intricate, complex personality, of great character, determination,” Singh said.
Jaswant Singh also questioned the wisdom of Indians who hesitated to call Jinnah a great Indian.
Asked if he views Jinnah as a great man, he said: “Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single handedly stood against the might of the Congress Party and against the British who didn’t really like him … Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognize that? Why don’t we see (and try to understand) why he called him that?”
He said Jinnah was a nationalist leader. “He fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of Muslims of India… the acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim unity,” he said.
“I admire certain aspects of his personality. His determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these (people) – Nehru and others – were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself. He was so poor he had to walk to work… he told one of his biographers there was always room at the top but there’s no lift. And he never sought a lift,” Singh said.