I am, on most days, a centrist moderate who has a 10 degree oscillation on issues to the left and right. I believe in a safety net, i believe in strong national security. I believe in inclusive politics and I believe in one law for all. Corruption bothers me, uber nationalism makes me uncomfortable, the pandering to the religious right (of all religions) gets to me, and I find the whittling away of our constitutional rights dangerous.

I find all parties to be complicit in the stuff that ails this country. I vote for the Congress because I have not been able to find any other alternative . This is despite the fact, that given who I am and my background- I should be part of the BJP”s natural vote bank. Yet, for those reading this blog for a longish time, you would know that I am not a fan of the BJP.

I find their identity politics dangerous and repulsive. I find their use of my most sacred religious symbols hypocritical -given their parent organization’s atheist roots. (note: i don’t have issues with atheists and their world view, except when they try to use religion to create identity) . I find their focus on the urban, inexplicable – especially given that 70%+ of the electorate lives in villages; I find their fascination with big business dangerous; and i find the ability of their minions to take to the street and cause violence – if things don’t go their way – frightening.

Yet, I don’t find their fascination with Jinnah, problematic. He – if he was an Indian – would be their role model. He was a pork eating, alcohol guzzling man who created a Muslim identity – something that he would not have labeled him self as -out of thin air and partitioned a people. I dare say the 5 times a day devout namaazi would have irritated Jinnah, as Maulana Azad did !! His party represented the elite Muslim – not the deprived, marginal tiller; and when he didn’t get his way – he unleashed hoards to commit violence !

So why did Jinnah do what he did – was it because he wanted to be PM? I really don’t think so. Jinnah knew that he was dying. He also seemed to be ruthless enough not to be mawkish about the top job. I think that Pakistan was about ideology – and that ideology was not Islam.

If you go back and re read the history of that era you will see that there were two major ideologies prevalent. The first was Socialism – and the rights of the tiller, the labourer, the worker and the dispossessed – and the second was Capitalism – and the rights of the owner, the zamindar, the rich. By the 1930’s it was very clear that India was going down the social democratic route – socialist in terms of Centralised planning, agrarian reforms, the whittling down of the zamindari system to give more rights to the tiller; and Democratic in the sense of Universal Franchise.

Yet, the landowner – thought small in numbers – was a formidable power base to be reckoned with. As Prof.Mushirul Hassan points out in his book Legacy of a Divided Nation India’s Muslims since Independence :

The landlords had a common benefactor in the British Government. Men with socialist and communist leanings were, on the other hand, their chief adversaries out to destroy their source of livelihood – so much so Nawab Muhammad Yunus of Jaunpur was willing to negotiate with the Hindu Mahasabha but not the Congress. “The community of interest between the League and the Mahasabha”, he told Jinnah “can be created by the Zamindars through their full weight in favour of such an understanding” (pg. 75)

He continues:

“…. Hindu landlords suspicious of Congress intentions….. turned to the Hindu Mahasabha, their Muslim counterparts courted Jinnah. In August 1936, the Raja of Jahangirabad, a ruler with vast estates, met Jinnah and decided to contest the Assembly elections as an Independent and not as a member of the National Agriculturalists’ Party; in return the League agreed not to put up a candidate. Soon afterwards leading rais, zamindars and taluqdars became more closely aligned with the League ”

Landlords formed the largest single group in the League council. Of 503 members, there were as many as 163 landlords – with Punjab contributing the largest share of 51 followed by UP and Bengal”

He continues :

“The landlords were by no means a unified or cohesive collectivity, yet their overriding concern was to safeguard their future in a Congress dominated Government, which they thought was inspired by Bolshevik ideas. Such anxieties reinforced by the administration’s paranoia socialist stirrings in the colonies, were echoed time and again in response to peasant movements some parts of UP and Bihar. The spread of Bolshevism, Syed Ali Raza had warned Hailey, was fraught with dreadful consequences. It meant that ‘the whole society would have to be reconstructed on lines repugnant to the people’ (page 76)

So, if you take religious identity – as opposed to religion – out of the equation what remains is the rights of those who owned property. And, therein lay the major difference between Nehru and Jinnah. The former an ardent socialist, the latter – a person who was backed by the collective might of the landowning class, not. Sardar Vallabhai Patel – the other major player in this story – too believed in the rights of the poor and dispossessed. Whatever else their differences may have been – Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru were united in that.

If only Jinnah was honest about his intentions – and declared a capitalist state as opposed to a state based on dividing people based on how they pray – history would have been different. Pakistan would have been a rich, stable and well governed state. But, he didn’t -capitalism may not have won him votes -so he used the bogey of an Islamic identity – pray what does a Baluchi Muslim and a Punjabi Muslim have in common apart from religion – to create Pakistan. He had the opportunity to create a Singapore – he created a feudal state – that is low on education, industrialization, human rights – and that is still battling the genies that he let out of the bottle.

I said in the begining, that i am not surprised with the BJP fascination with Jinnah – be it Advani or Jaswant Singh – he stood for what they stand for – both in terms of constituency and in terms of agenda. Jinnah’s Direct Action has a parallel in Ram Janmabhoomi, his use of Islam a parallel in Hindutva, His representation of the landowners a reflection of the BJP’s core constituency. But, the whole story of Jinnah and partition is a lesson for the BJP – read history, but read between the lines. Do not divide us in the name of Hindutva, or religion. We have recent history that tells us what will happen. Broaden your reach – Stand for something that makes us reach the stars, not take us to the depth of despair. If you don’t believe me, peek across the border.

worth reading :
Nehru, Bose, Jinnah correspondence – here
Gandhiji’s scheme of offering Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947 – here

on the Jaswant Singh Drama :
Great Bong on Power of History

News Reporter

16 thoughts on “The BJP fascination with Jinnah – not surprising

  1. “This is despite the fact, that given who I am and my background- I should be part of the BJP”s natural vote bank.”

    Smacks of self importance. Whats next, that you SHOULD be a cabinet minister?

    And you go on to contradict your “natural votebank” supposition when you go on to despise Hindutva which is the core ideology of the BJP. If you dont believe in Hindutva then you are, by default, not part of the natural BJP supporters.

    You dont deserve the BJP and the BJP doesnt deserve you. Its as simple as that.

    And you are reading a bit too much into the Jinnah episode. BJP as a party is not obsessed with Jinnah, it is only two individuals – Advani and Jaswant – who probably have not reconciled with the partition that they lived through.
    Incidentally, Advani was alleged by the Pakistanis to have been involved in a plot to assassinate Jinnah, thought it was not pursued.

    Shame on you for comparing direct action to Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The Ram movement began because of the non-decision of the court on the Ayodhya case for 30 years (it is still not decided, 60 years later).
    In contrast direct action was a call to loot, murder and rape given by the thugs of muslim league.

  2. I had read somewhere, that Britain at the time of partition was keen to have Northern Areas (of Kashmir) remain with Pakistan because a region so close to Russia would be better of in the hands of a feudal state rather than a democratic state with socialist leanings.

    It can be easily seen that Pakistan has not been consistently live up to its democracy, for so many years, democracy and feudalism dont go together, and Pakistan looks more fuedal than us.

  3. “Stand for something that makes us reach the stars, not take us to the depth of despair. If you don’t believe me, peek across the border.”

    Just curious, what would that (peeking across the border) explain, and how?

  4. Tell me
    did u ever vote for vajpayee ?

    time and again u contradict urself … especially because congress is no different from bjp in most aspects. They demand votes by championing aam admi but their policys harm him the most .. be it the new tax code or the rampant real inflation bred by their politics of dole and packages.
    Notwithstanding bjps love for jinnah.. a man full of contradictions, one cannot but wonder why congress built so much hate around him… and why people contributed money in a secular manner to build a hall on his name in Mumbai.
    secondly lets not forget that prof. mushirul hassan has a checkered history and is favored by congress and cannot be considered true secular esp after his announcement of legal aid to some of the terror suspects.
    i see nothing wrong in studying Jinnah, because like it or not he charted a vital part in this nations history.

  5. hey good morning πŸ™‚
    in India you vote for the MP – mine was a choice (in those days) between Sunil Dutt and Sarpotdar. so the answer to your question is no. had my UPA candidate been someone else, then maybe. If Sunil Dutt stood for the BJP -then I would have voted BJP.

    I don’t have an issue with Jinnah’s secular credentials. I also believe that a whole bunch in the BJP use Hindutva as lip service – much the same as he used Islam.

    They have pro business policies – upfront those – not the religious /cultural crap that they come up with.

    This argument of Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha standing for the rights of the landowners is not new. If only Jinnah had declared a capitalist state instead of a religious state – the history of his country would have been different.

    The study of Jinnah and debate on that period is vital – we have been living in denial of the partition, the reasons for and the consequences off for too long. it is high time.

    similary, the BJP should stop looking at what is Hindutva and non Hindutva and tying themselves up in knots – and start focusing on policy.

    I don’t understand what you find as contradiction here ?

    1. u said u voted for dutt …
      but just recently ur post was to vote for congress bcause of mms

      there are numerous such contradictions i see in ur writings but never mind , what i like is that u write with ur heart !

      on viewing dd … sorry dd looks like congress mouthpiece
      no channel in india gives out balanced news
      i prefer stuff like the post and bloomberg with a pinch of salt …
      as i dont see any unbiased news around ,,,

  6. Hello
    I liked your post very much. Wish people would wake up and see the political parties for what they are and what they represent.
    We need leaders in India who have a vision and the best interest of the country and all its citizens at heart. We need leadership that unifies rather than divide. Sadly, don’t see any such leader even on the distant horizon.

  7. Harini,
    As you know I vote BJP, like you vote Congress.
    May I just say that it is simplistic to take the religious right from both the Hindus and Muslims, pre-partition and say that only they represented the landowners’ and capitalists’ interests. And, the Congress represented the tillers and the marginalized section of the society. Did you know that most of the top industrialists of that era were supporting the Congress? If you think they were doing it all for ridding the nation of the Brits and they expected no quid pro quo, please think again.
    I do not think Congress represented the marginalized section of the society any more than the Muslim League or the Hindu Mahasabha did. The leadership of Congress as with Muslim League was in the hands of English educated elites with tonnes of money and a stake in continuing the status quo.
    Prof Indivar Kamtekar taught us history at IIM; very bright man. I am sure he felt happy to run away to JNU (who wants to teach history to b-school types).
    His views on the Bengal famine of 1942; captured by Swaminathan Aiyar.
    Simply put, all of us, who are so exercised by the deaths of 6000 people in the direct action called by Jinnah, never mention the Great Famine; about a million people died. Why? Because, these were the truly marginal and dispossessed. They were the dis-enfranchised. No one gave a damn.
    We the heartless! We are still encashing and re-creating at every opportunity political capital out of the Direct Action (6000 deaths). Satyajit Ray made Ashani Sanket and Amartya Sen based his seminal research on the 1942 famine. But, a political issue? Nah!

    1. @anindya – hi.
      it was not about the Congress standing for the down trodden – it was simply the shape of the ‘socialist’ centralized control that appealed to both Nehru & Patel. The Congress policy definitely included land reforms and the diluting of zamindari – and it is hardly surprising that the zamidars looked at supporting parties that were more favorable to their interests. on the Industrialist support to the Congress – i would think that 40 years of protectionism was an effective bargain πŸ™

      I have been reading the letters between Jinnah and the Congress on Muslim League demands – i seriously don’t know how a deal could have been struck, or if a deal had been struck how it could have held. Hindu interests – especially those of women and ‘lower castes’ – would have gotten buggered with that deal – and the violence it would have unleashed would have made the partition seem like a roadside skirmish !!

      Had we stayed as one -we would have broken up into far more than 2 and then 3 pieces. i am grateful to Jinnah & his cohorts for ensuring that partition happened sooner rather than later. Incidentaly if we had stayed to gether – it may not have been a Hindu Muslim fissure – it may have been uttar dakshin or uttar poorab, or uttar paschim – Jinnah was adamant that Urdu along with Hindi be the national langauge. Bangladesh would have been revisited on India – again & again πŸ™

  8. Dear Ms. Harini Calamur,I am a newspaper reporter from China.I know your name from google reader(you love one of the article from the Economist).
    I am very interested in India.Will you reply me in email,we could talk our country sth more.Thank you.

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