The BJP fears that party leader Jaswant Singh’s new book on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah will once again open an old wound in the party and lead to needless controversies at a time when it ought to be cornering the ruling Congress on the rising prices of essentials.

Mr. Singh’s new book — “Jinnah – India, Partition, Independence” — published by Rupa, with its simultaneous Hindi edition published by Rajpal and Sons, was released here on Monday at a packed Teen Murti library auditorium. However, the absence of even a single leader from the BJP, except his son and former MP Manvendra gave the sense of the party shunning the function.

Arun Shourie, listed as one of the panellists for a discussion that followed the release, failed to show up. He told The Hindu later that he had conveyed his regrets to Mr. Singh’s secretary some time ago.

BJP leaders preferred to maintain silence, adding the party would react in a few days after the book was officially released. However, they did point out that there was no change in the party’s views on Jinnah that were recorded on a resolution in June 2005 when it was in the midst of the controversy created by L.K. Advani’s Jinnah-is-secular formulation during a visit to Pakistan, and for which Mr. Advani was virtually eased out as party president by the end of that year.

Party leaders are wary of saying what Mr. Singh’s fate will now be for, the book is believed to have once again presented Jinnah as not entirely responsible for Partition. But, the Congress lashed out at the BJP leader saying Mr. Singh was too much of a BJP insider for the party to distance itself from his views.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi accused the BJP of failing to distinguish between Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi.

“The BJP is overwhelmed by love for Jinnah but never ever mentions Maulana Azad. When Jinnah was talking of Partition, Azad was involved in binding the country together as Congress president,” Mr. Singhvi said. Ironically, the BJP was displaying its patriotism by denigrating Jawaharlal Nehru and eulogising Jinnah. He also added that Pakistan’s “brand of secularism” appealed to the BJP possibly because it was “close to hardline Hindutva.”

The June 2005 resolution of the BJP stated: “Whatever may have been Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, the state he founded was theocratic and non-secular; the very idea of Hindus and Muslims being two separate nations is repugnant to the BJP. The BJP has always condemned the division of India along communal lines and continues to steadfastly reject the two-nation theory championed by Jinnah and endorsed by the British ? .”

A party leader says the BJP views Jinnah as one of the “main” persons responsible for Partition, and there is no question of endorsing Mr. Singh’s view that he has been unnecessarily demonised in India.

There was also agreement among BJP leaders that a senior party leader could not simply say these were his personal views for, they went against the basic ideological position of the party.

At the discussion following the book release, at least two participants, B.G. Verghese and M.J. Akbar, strongly disagreed with Mr. Singh’s thesis. Mr. Akbar pointed out that the Cabinet Mission plan permitted secession and in that the Congress saw a plan for the balkanisation of India. “Jinnah accepted a moth-eaten Pakistan, but Nehru refused to accept a moth-eaten India.” Mr. Verghese said the Muslim League wanted to be the sole representative of Muslims and that was rejected by the Congress as a non-secular approach even as he charged that Jinnah unleashed communal violence on the country in 1946.

Some other participants including Mark Tully, Meghnad Desai, Ram Jethmalani, Namwar Singh and Hameed Haroon (from Pakistan) said a new appraisal of Jinnah’s role was needed and Mr. Singh had done a commendable job.

Mr. Singh himself said an author should not be heard, he should be read, and invited the audience to read his book.

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