The irony wasn’t lost. Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s latest book — in praise of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and critical of Jawaharlal Nehru for India’s Partition — was released at Nehru Memorial Library Auditorium here on Monday.
If Singh was expecting a panel of eminent speakers to endorse his view, he could have been disappointed. Also, BJP leaders — barring party’s office secretary Shyam Jaju — chose to ignore his invite. Even BJP MP Arun Shourie, who was listed as a speaker, stayed away.
The BJP, which has distanced itself from Singh’s view, is hoping that his book won’t turn out to be a big embarrassment — just as L.K. Advani’s praise of him in 2005 had become a row.
Sushma Swaraj said, “The party doesn’t accept any praise of Jinnah and condemnation of Sardar Patel for Partition.
The RSS, too, said it did not agree with Singh’s view.
While eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani and Lord Meghnad Desai shared Singh’s perception that Jinnah was demonised without basis, editor-journalists B.G. Verghese and M.J. Akbar defended Nehru and explained why the Congress could not accept Jinnah’s terms to avoid Partition.
Hameed Haroon, chief executive officer of Pakistan-based Dawn group of newspapers, praised Singh’s efforts, saying there was renewed interest on Jinnah in his country where younger people were trying to know more about the “liberal” side of the man credited with the founding of Pakistan.
“There is excitement for Jinnah in Pakistan — just as there is in India. Till date, the study of Jinnah in universities and colleges had been discouraged as the fundamentalists were against whatever he stood for,” he said.
Namvar Singh, eminent Hindi critic, said Singh’s bid was to break the impression that Jinnah was a villain of Partition — just as some writers have tried to see epic Ramayan’s Ravan and Mahabharat’s Duryodhan in a different light.
Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent, said Singh’s book was a pointer that it was high time for everyone to realise that “everyone made mistakes — whether it was Gandhiji, Nehru, Jinnah or the British.” Singh chose not to speak at the function.