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New Delhi: At a time when Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is caught in the eye of a storm for drawing parallels between Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and India’s freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel, a top BJP leader on Monday, November 1, said that India could have avoided Partition had Jinnah been made the first prime minister of the country.
“Unfortunately, our leaders then did not think about this. Had he been offered the PM post – and who became the PM after him was a different issue – at least Partition wouldn’t have taken place,” said Seshadri Chari, BJP’s national executive member and former editor of Organiser magazine, an RSS mouthpiece.
A comment such as this from a top BJP leader assumes significance at this juncture when Akhilesh Yadav is being slammed by various politicians, predominantly from the BJP, including Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, for placing Jinnah under the category of ‘India’s freedom fighters’.
At an event meant to mark Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s 146th birth anniversary in Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi, Yadav on Sunday, October 31, had said, “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.”
The statement naturally drew a sharp reaction from the BJP, calling his statement “shameful” and seeking an apology from Yadav.
Immediately a day after Yadav’s ‘controversial’ remark, Chari, speaking at the launch of information commissioner Uday Mahurkar’s book Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition in Jaipur, said: “Agar August 15, 1947 ko Jinnah ko aap pradhan mantri kar bhi dete, toh hum bhagwan sey prarthana karte ki woh bahut zinda rehte, lekin wo nahi reh sakte the…woh ek saal bhi zinda nahi rahenge ye Britishon ko pata tha (Had your made Jinnah the Prime Minister on August 15, 1947 – and we would have prayed for his long life – but he would have not long…even the British knew he was a TB patient and was on his death bed. The British knew he would not live even a year).”
While stating that there were a lot of “ifs and buts” in his observations, Chari said, “If we didn’t agree to Partition and chose to fight for independence for another 10 years, had we said that, like Savarkar, and K. M. Munshi, the chitr (picture) of this nation may have been different. There may not have been Pakistan probably.”
On the other hand, Mahurkar, the author of the book, said a personality like V.D. Savarkar was above and beyond Bharat Ratna.
“Bharat Ratna miley toh koi buri baat nahi hai lekin Veer Savarkar jo vyaktitva hai, toh Bharat Ratna koi badi baat nahi hai unke liye, milta hai toh bhi theek hai, nahi milta toh bhi theek hai. Bahut upar hain (It’s not a bad thing if he gets the Bharat Ratna but he is above it all),” he said.
This lavishing of praise on Savarkar is again bound to stoke controversy, given his record of filing mercy petitions with the British for his release when he was a political prisoner. In his petition sent to the authorities on November 14, 1913, Savarkar spoke of his earlier “petition for clemency” and presented himself as the “prodigal son” who had nowhere to go but to return to the “parental doors of the government”. He also told the government how his and his brother’s release would affect the people who “will instinctively raise a shout of joy and gratitude to the Government, who knows how to forgive and correct, more than how to chastise and avenge”.
Last month, defence minister Rajnath Singh also tried in vain to distort history by ‘resurrecting’ the image of Savarkar, by stating that he had filed mercy petitions at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi. Singh’s statement invited sharp reactions from several politicians and historians, who called him out for “distorting history”.
(With PTI inputs)