The BJP hasn’t said the last word on Partition yet.
Months after Jaswant Singh blamed Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel for the country’s division on the eve of Independence and invited expulsion from the BJP for praising Pakistan founder MA Jinnah, party leader Balbir Punj has pointed the finger at Mahatma Gandhi.
The BJP’s national secretary and Rajya Sabha member has blamed Gandhi for the “original sin” that culminated in Partition.
“Gandhiji’s unstinted support for restoration of Khilafat in faraway Turkey in 1920s ultimately led to the Partition…,” Punj writes an article in a booklet, Vikalp (Alternative).
Khilafat movement (1919-24) was aimed at restoring the office of the Caliph abolished by the British.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “Muslim First” policy is in the same tradition, he adds.
The booklet was released in the presence of BJP president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader L.K. Advani on the February 11, the death anniversary of Jan Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. Jan Sangh was the predecessor of the BJP.
Indian nationalism was always Hindu, says Punj. It was from Gandhi’s time that Hindus got demoted to the status of a mere community. Salwa Judums and the recent Orissa outbursts against evangelism (read Kandhamal riots) are truly nationalist in nature, says Punj.
“All this history writing is because the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) was conspicuously absent during the national movement,” said Jyotirmaya Sharma of Hyderabad Central University, an expert on Hindutva politics.
Punj’s argument underlines the inconsistency of the Sangh Parivar in resolving Gandhi, who is alternately condemned and appropriated.
While the BJP claims to follow Gandhian ideas right from its inception in 1980 — in the first session former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had invoked “Gandhian socialism” — glimpses of the pre-Partition Hindutva critique of Gandhi as “pro-Muslim” does make its way into the Parivar’s discourse now and then.