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Mainstream, VOL LX No 15, New Delhi, April 2, 2022

Jinnah Lives Again, What An Irony? | T J S George

Friday 1 April 2022, by T J S George



Mani Shankar Aiyar hit a political bull’s eye when he said recently that Uttar Pradesh voted for Jinnah in the latest election. Jinnah’s partition philosophy was based on the 80:20 ratio of Hindu-Muslim population. Yogi Adityanath inaugurated the UP election campaign with the same 80:20 argument without realising the trap he was getting into.

But the trap trapped him. It became clear that there was really no difference between Muhammed Ali Jinnah and Yogi Adityanath in life’s basics. Both saw India as primarily a religious proposition. Both accepted the animosities that religion promoted. Both saw opportunities in animosities.

Jinnah probably played his role smiling secretly. Never had a politician seen opportunities for personal supremacy as clearly as Jinnah did. Belonging to the moderate group advocating Hindu-Muslim unity, he saw the potential of Hindu-Muslim enmity and exploited it with a dedication worthy of nobler ends. No one can blame him, because he succeeded in becoming a bargainer with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi.

Delightfully hypocritical in his politics, Jinnah must have enjoyed the game of power more than Gandhi did. He was a man of wealth, with a house in London’s fashionable Hampstead area, another in Malabar Hill, the glittering crown of Bombay city, and one in Delhi’s Aurangabad Road area which is exclusively meant for special people.

Jinnah sold his grand bungalow to Ramakrishna Dalmia. Number two and Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan transferred his grand bungalow to the Government of Pakistan which set up its High Commission there. Who was smarter?

Jinnah was a proud style icon of his time. He owned 200 suits, all specially tailored in the style capital of the world, Savile Row in London. He picked his own tailor there, Henry Poole and Co. Savile Row stamp is enough to proclaim a gentleman’s class and character. It is the only road in the world that is synonymous with men’s clothings. Such was its impact that in Japan they call a suit a sebiro, the Japanese way of saying Savile Row.

Jinnah was of course more than a connoisseur of fine clothing. He was a law unto himself when it came to personal habits. He was a chain smoker, Craven-A cigarettes being his addiction. He never performed the Haj, he enjoyed his Scotch Whisky and he was proud of the pork dishes made by his wife Ratan Bai. She was a Parsi, originally from the Petit family, and became Jinnah’s wife a quarter century after Emibai, his first wife, died (Emibai was a cousin of Jinnah. The marriage was arranged by Jinnah’s mother who was worried about his son going to far-away England.)

On the political front Jinnah found in his sister a laudable partner. Fatima Jinnah was the first woman in undivided India to qualify as a dentist. Articulate and strongly critical of British imperialism, she became an activist in politics and founded the Pakistan Women’s Association.

The situation changed drastically, however, following Jinnah’s death in 1948. Fatima became virtually persona non grata for those who mattered. She was banned from radio. A book she wrote under the title "My Brother" was kept in storage for 32 years. When it finally reached a publisher several segments were found removed.

The military’s ambitions in Pakistan were clear from early on. The country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was a politician, not an army general. That was enough for Liaquat to be shot dead in 1951. The man who pulled the trigger was described as "a professional assassin." Significantly, he was found to be a man "who was known to Pakistani police". Astonishingly, he had been "receiving a monthly income of Rs 450 from the Government of Pakistan." More astonishingly, the assassin was conveniently sitting in front of the stage, in a row meant for police officers. From that position, only a blind shooter could have missed his target.

We may think there is irony in Yogi Adityanath striking the same chords that Jinnah struck way back in the 1940s. But there is no irony there. Politicians are the same, irrespective of the colours they wear. The colours are merely a means to an end. And the end is invariably selfish, partisan and full of negative vibes.

Politicians like Adityanath have no intellectual achievements to claim. They are unlikely to understand the sting in Mani Shankar Aiyar’s reference to Jinnah vis a vis UP. That intellectually undeveloped leaders are in control of our country is the tragedy we have to live with.

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