Senior BJP pleader L K Advani on Tuesday contested allegations that Sardar Patel was anti-Muslim and quoted Rafiq Zakaria, an Islamic scholar and Congress leader, who had done research on the ‘Iron Man’, to underline his nationalistic credentials.
In his blog, Mr. Advani expressed surprise at a “perverse” article in a national magazine which quoted records to brand Patel as a man “rabidly communal in outlook” and Jawaharlal Nehru as a symbol “of secular nationalism”.
The article said this was the reason Sangh Parivar “worships one and hates the other”, inviting strong rebuttal from the veteran BJP leader who presented Mr. Zakaria’s views, who is considered an authority on subjects related to Indian Muslims, to counter the charge.
Quoting Mr. Zakaria’s book based on his lectures on “Sardar Patel and Indian Muslims”, Mr. Advani said the Congress leader too was under the impression that Patel did not like Muslims.
“I thought he (Patel) was unabashedly anti-Muslim. Should I, therefore, I wondered, venture on a theme in lectures organised in his memory, which may be critical of him,” Mr. Zakaria wrote.
“The more I researched, the more I was convinced that the Iron Man had been misunderstood in many respects and there were cobwebs about his attitude toward Indian Muslims, which needed to be removed. I am glad I was able to do so to my satisfaction,” Mr. Advani quoted from the book in the blog.
Mr. Zakaria said Fali Nariman, former Solicitor General of India, wrote to him that he enjoyed listening to the lectures, so did the Justice Chapalgaonkar of the Mumbai High Court.
“Many others also felt that I was able to present an objective analysis of Patel’s attitude to Indian Muslims, which was sorely needed in the present situation which is so vitiated by communal poison,” Zakaria wrote.
Attempts led by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to claim Patel’s legacy has fuelled a spat between it and Congress in recent months with Mr. Modi suggesting that Patel would have made a better PM than Nehru.