Millennium Post

Pawning stalwarts for petty gains

A new trend has unfortunately emerged in national politics, particularly during the poll campaign, to bring to the focus country’s national leaders of repute and to derive mileage from their achievements. Good sense should prevail on the politicians of the day to recognise that these great leaders who sacrificed for the country, though they at one point of time belonged to a particular party, belong to the nation as a whole.

Election campaign is no forum to debate the achievements and shortcomings of these great national leaders. Rather the political parties in the fray should project the leadership qualities of their present leaders. The Election Commission should step in to ensure that reputation of great national leaders are not misused for mere electoral gains.

The BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi are exploiting the achievements of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as a man responsible for unification of India. The party has also brought to the fore the divide between Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel on several issues. The BJP patriarch L K Advani in his blog quoted a book written by an IAS officer M K K Nair where the author alleged Nehru in a Cabinet meeting before the Hyderabad operation saying to Patel, ‘You are a total communalist. I will never accept your recommendation.’ The Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has brought the country’s first Education Minister Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad to the fore for his role in opposing the partition of the country and as an apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity. It has become apparent that the two rival opposing parties – Congress and the BJP – are trying to glorify past leaders of national importance to gain political mileage as polls in five states are round the corner and the general elections are due in 2014. Recently releasing the commemorative coins in the honour of Azad on his 125th birth anniversary, Chidambaram described him as one who refused to accept the partition of the country till the last.

‘Maulana Azad made a significant contribution to the recording of history through his book – India Wins Freedom. History cannot be bent. Historical facts are sacred. I thought the best tribute to Maulana Azad would be to read excerpts from his autobiography that will throw light on a sad chapter of India’s history, namely, the partition of India. These portions would also be a lesson in history to all those who participate in public discourse,’ Chidambaram said. Quoting Azad, the finance minister said, ‘A truly pathetic situation had developed as a result of the Congress mistake in giving finance to the Muslim League. This had led to the deadlock which gave Lord Mountbatten the opportunity of slowly preparing the ground for the partition of India. As he began to give a new turn to the political problem he tried to impress on Congress the inevitability of partition, and sowed the seeds of the idea in the minds of the Congress Members of the Executive Council.’ Further quoting Azad, the finance minister said that Lord Mountbatten, being intelligent could read the minds of Indian leaders. ‘The moment he found Sardar Patel amenable to his idea, he put out all the charm and power of his personality to win over the Sardar.  As soon as the Sardar Patel had been convinced, Lord Mountbatten turned his attention to Jawaharlal. Jawaharlal was not at first at all willing and reacted violently against the very idea of Partition, but Lord Mountbatten persisted till step by step Jawaharlal’s opposition was worn down. Within a month of Lord Mountbatten’s arrival in India Jawaharlal, the firm opponent of partition had become, if not a supporter, at least acquiescent towards the idea.’

‘When I became aware that Lord Mountbatten was thinking in terms of dividing India and had persuaded Jawaharlal and Patel, I was deeply distressed. I realised that the country was moving towards a great danger. Now that Sardar Patel and even Jawaharlal Nehru had become supporters of partition, Gandhiji remained my only hope,’ wrote Azad in his book. ‘But when I met Gandhiji again, I received the greatest shock of my life, for I found that he too had changed. He was still not openly in favour of partition but he no longer spoke so vehemently against it. What surprised and shocked me even more was that he began to repeat the arguments which Sardar Patel had already used. For over two hours I pleaded with him but could make no impression on him,’ Azad wrote. Azad’s book further states, ‘The details of Lord Mountbatten plan were not yet published, but I guess that it would entail the partition of India. He returned to Delhi on 30 May and on 2 June held discussions with the representatives of the Congress and the Muslim League. On 3 June a White Paper was issued which gave all the details of the plan. The statement of the British government will be found in the Appendix and I need only say that my worst fears were realised. The price for freedom was the partitioning of India into two states.

‘The publication of this statement meant the end of all hopes for preserving the unity of India. This was the first time that the Cabinet Mission Plan was discarded and partition accepted officially. In trying to explain why the labour government changed its attitude, I came to the painful conclusion that its action was governed more by consideration of British than Indian interests. ‘The AICC met on 14 June 1947. I have attended many meetings of the AICC but this was one of the strangest that it was my misfortune to attend. Congress, which had always fought for the unity and independence of India, was now considering an official resolution for the division of the country.

‘When the resolution was put to the vote, 29 voted for it and 15 against. Even Gandhiji’s appeal could not persuade more members to vote for the partition of the country!’ If BJP claims that Nehru was responsible for partisan, then it should be bold enough to acknowledge the fact the Indira Gandhi gave a blow to the two-nation theory, which led to creation of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi dismembered Pakistan by creating Bangladesh in 1971.

However, L K Advani in his blog has come to the defence of Patel. Quoting K P S Menon’s autobiography he said, ‘Sardar Patel’s initial move to counter the implications of the passing of the Indian Independence Act which accepted the principle of Partitian was to have the Congress Party pass a resolution asking for ‘a division of Punjab into two provinces, so that the predominantly Muslim part may be separated from the predominantly Muslim part may be separated from the predominantly non-Muslim part.’ Advani also quotes Balraj Krishna ‘Patel’s was not a call for India’s partition, but a forewarning to Punjabi Muslims (who were expecting entire Punjab to be part of Pakistan) of the consequences of League’s demand for Pakistan.’

Balraj Krishna says, ‘even Nehru bluntly told Gandhi that the resolution was ‘the only answer to partition as demanded by Jinnah.’

The deeds of past national leaders should not form the agenda of poll campaign. The Election Commission should step in to stop this trend.

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