Ahead of UP polls, SP chief Akhilesh's Jinnah remark triggers political row

Updated on Nov 02, 2021 07:50 AM IST

CM Yogi Adityanath at a public meeting said the comment smacked of “Talibani mentality, which the people of the country and Uttar Pradesh will not tolerate”

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav (Naeem Ansari)
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav (Naeem Ansari)
By, Hindustan Times, Lucknow

Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav’s reference to Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the same breath as some of the stalwarts of India’s freedom struggle has has snowballed into a controversy, with UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath leading the charge against the SP chief.

Adityanath at a public meeting in Moradabad on Monday said the comment smacked of “Talibani mentality, which the people of the country and Uttar Pradesh will not tolerate”.

He was responding to Yadav’s comment, at a public meeting in Hardoi on Sunday that “Sardar Patel, mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah studied in the same institute and became barristers. They helped (India) get freedom and never backed away from any struggle.”

The speech came on the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, independent India’s first home minister and the man who united the country by convincing the princely states to merge with the Union of India. Unlike the other three who studied law at the Inner Temple, Patel studied at the Middle Temple.

In response, Adityanath said on Moradabad: “I heard the statement of Samajwadi Party president. He compared ‘desh-todo’ (one responsible for dividing the country) Jinnah with ‘desh-jodo’ (the one who united the country) Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The statement is downright shameful. Sardar Patel is the architect of the country’s unity. At present, work is on to realise the dream of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But his (Akhilesh’s) ‘vibhajankaari’ (divisive) mentality has surfaced once again when he compared Sardar Patel to Jinnah. He tried to glorify Jinnah”.

Elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most politically important state are due early next year and all parties, including the BJP and the SP have launched their campaigns.

Adityanath continued his criticism of Yadav in another meeting on Monday in Haryana’s Faridabad.

“Earlier Jinnah supporters fired upon Ram Bhakts; if they come again, they will again do it. Now (during BJP rule) bullets are fired upon terrorists, traitors.”

His reference was to the firing on karsewaks in Ayodhya in 1990, during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, when the Samajwadi Party was in power in the state.

With the movement coming to a fruition in 2019 with a Supreme Court verdict allowing the construction of a Ram temple at Ram Janmabhoomi, work on which is currently underway, the BJP has made it (the temple and the movement) one of the pillars of its campaign.

On Saturday, in another public meeting, Adityanath asked: “Will those responsible for ordering firing would apologise to the nation?”

The Samajwadi Party sought to defend Yadav’s remarks. “Its spokesperson and MLC Udaiveer Singh said: “Akhilesh did not say anything wrong. In the statement, he drew a parallel between Jinnah and the RSS as both were responsible for the country’s partition. Akhilesh only mentioned facts that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and Jinnah studied at the same institute and worked for the country’s freedom. This is true. And he meant that while Patel was responsible for India’s unity, he banned RSS as it were the RSS and Jinnah (who were) responsible for dividing the country.”

Jinnah is a polarising figure in India where he is held responsible for pushing for the partition and the creation of Pakistan, as well of the horrors that followed the split. In 2018, several BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh demanded the removal of Jinnah’s portrait from the office of the students union of Aligarh Muslim University.

Political analyst and former head of the department of political science, Lucknow University, Professor SK Dwivedi said Yadav’s comment seemed “calculated”.

“One day he says he will build a better temple (than the one coming up at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya) and then the next day he invokes Jinnah. Akhilesh’s comment seems aimed at appeasing minorities ahead of the 2022 polls.”

The Bahujan Samaj Party, however, said there is “collusion” between the SP and the BJP. In a tweet in Hindi, BSP chief Mayawati alleged that Yadav’s remarks on Jinnah and the BJP’s response to it were part of a well-thought-out strategy of the two parties to vitiate the atmosphere on Hindu-Muslim lines ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) national president Jayant Chaudhary, in a tweet, said: “Jinnah, Indo-Pak Cricket, Aurangzeb doesn’t matter...The economy, job creation, governance must win!”. In the tweet, Jayant attached the RLD manifesto’s page and added: “Let’s take up the issues and ignite a debate on development models, policies & programmes!” The RLD has been SP’s ally since 2017 UP assembly polls and the two parties are set to continue the alliance for the 2022 polls as well.

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    Pankaj Jaiswal is Chief of Bureau, Uttar Pradesh and covers politics. His continued interest in rural, distress, and development journalism, fetched him a handful of prestigious awards and fellowships. Pankaj is a photo-journalist too and tweets at @augustus29lotus

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