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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Jinnah joust in summer of 2024: Century-old debate overshadows pressing concerns

The Indian voter has been invited to judge in 2024 who is more like the pre-Independence Muslim League of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder — the ruling BJP or India’s emaciated grand old party, the Congress

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 09.04.24, 05:22 AM
Rahul Gandhi at a public meeting at Dhanora in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh on Monday.

Rahul Gandhi at a public meeting at Dhanora in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh on Monday. PTI picture

An argument nearly a century old has become a quibble between this summer’s chief contestants for power.

The Indian voter has been invited to judge in 2024 who is more like the pre-Independence Muslim League of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder — the ruling BJP or India’s emaciated grand old party, the Congress.

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Stung by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Muslim League” slur on the party manifesto, the Congress hit back on Monday arguing the BJP had more in common with Jinnah’s party and ideology.

Slamming the BJP for relying on Jinnah to score points against its manifesto — “a widely appreciated document drawn up by the people” — the Congress said it was Jinnah's Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha, the BJP’s “ideological ancestor”, that had jointly opposed the Quit India Movement of 1942.

In doing so, the Congress also sought to drive home the point that the BJP essentially had only one ace up its sleeve — sectarian polarisation — as it headed to the polls with a dismal governance track record, the ruling party’s tall claims notwithstanding.

With Modi continuing to point the Muslim League finger at the Congress at his election rallies, the party has gone to the Election Commission complaining that his remarks on its manifesto are objectionable. These remarks constitute a violation of the Model Code of Conduct and the Indian Penal Code, the Congress has held.

“By propagating false, uninformed and vexatious claims, Shri Narendra Modi has attempted to evoke an emotional response from the electorate by using the horrors of partition in a bid to polarise voters.... The actions of Shri Narendra Modi may also endanger the well-being of supporters of the INC by making the public believe the INC wishes to ‘divide India’,” the Congress said.

The Congress pushed back on the Muslim League analogy through the day, beginning with party president Mallikarjun Kharge underlining the nexus between Jinnah’s Muslim League and the BJP’s “ideological ancestor”, the Hindu Mahasabha, during the Quit India Movement.

“Modi-Shah’s ideological ancestors opposed Mahatma Gandhi’s call for ‘Quit India’ in 1942, which was a movement chaired by Maulana Azad. Everyone knows how Syama Prasad Mukherjee formed his governments in Bengal, Sindh and NWFP in the 1940s in coalition with the Muslim League,” Kharge said in a statement.

Turning the knife deeper, Kharge asked: “Did Syama Prasad Mukherjee not write to the then British Governor about how the Quit India movement of 1942 can be ‘combated’ and how the Congress should be suppressed? And for this, he said that ‘Indians have to trust the British’?Modi-Shah and their nominated (party) president (J.P. Nadda) are today spreading falsehood about the Congress manifesto. There is a stink of the RSS in Modiji’s speeches, the BJP’s electoral graph is plunging day by day, therefore the RSS has started remembering its best friend — the Muslim League!”

The charge was echoed by Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate, who asserted that the Prime Minister’s remark was a reflection of the panic caused in the BJP by the Congress’s promises in its manifesto.

“The manifesto has the imprint of the aspirations and hopes of lakhs and crores of people whom the party leadership met during the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra,” Shrinate said, adding that the party manifesto had not been scripted on the recommendations of “two capitalist cronies”.

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