Advani has no regrets over remarks on Jinnah

It was an episode that made him virtually a persona non grata in the Sangh Parivar and within the BJP and that forced him to quit as party president.

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NEW DELHI: It was an episode that made him virtually a persona non grata in the Sangh Parivar and within the BJP and that forced him to quit as party president.
He even wanted to quit public life and opt for peace in the family.
But three years after the infamous Jinnah episode, senior BJP leader L K Advani says "I have no regrets" on references about the secular nature of Mohammad Ali Jinnah which he quoted from late Sarojini Naidu's speech.
Writing under the chapter "I have no regrets" in his memoirs 'My Country My Life', Advani recalls the political storm that was generated by his remarks in Karachi during his visit to Pakistan in 2005.
"I could well understand if some ordinary people had felt surprised and even upset, at seeing headlines in TV news bulletins or newspapers that said: 'Advani calls Jinnah secular'.
"But what pained me is that some people thought I had committed a serious ideological heresy even before acquainting themselves with full facts and background information," he writes.
Advani recaptures the turmoil which forced him to resign as president of the BJP. "It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was upset," he notes. His resignation was, however, not accepted by the party's Parliamentary Board.
He withdrew his resignation but Advani recollects that the turbulence did not end there.
"One day, in the middle of 2005, I was told that I should step down from presidentship of the BJP by the year-end after the conclusion of the party's ongoing silver jubilee celebrations," he says.
The Leader of the Opposition remembers that period as "profoundly agonising" which even forced him to think of ending active political life.
"I was in a dilemma. What should I do ? How should I respond to this situation ? Never in my political life was I enamoured by any post or the power that supposedly came with it," he notes.
"My predicament often made me wonder if it wasn't time for me to embrace the peace and comfort of a quiet family life, which had eluded me for so long. My state of mind was not quite unlike that of the unsure Arjuna on the battlefield," he writes.
He subsequently passed on the baton to Rajnath Singh at the National Council meeting in Mumbai in December.
"I had no regrets and no disappointments. I had the satisfaction of having served my party dutifully and conscientiously -- and the determination to continue to do so in the future," Advani writes.
As for his Pakistan trip, he says "a few years down the line there will be people who will think that what Advani did then had strengthened his cause, his party and raised his esteem in the people's eyes".
He also devotes around 80 pages of his book to the Ayodhya movement which he had spearheaded and says the rise of a Ram temple there is "pre-destined".
Often accused of communally polarising the society, Advani feels that the best way to end the Ayodhya dispute is through negotiations and wants the Muslims to show the goodwill and magnanimity that matches that of Hindus.
"After all, Ram may be a holy religious figure worthy of worship for the Hindus, but he is also a pre-eminent symbol of India's cultural heritage which belongs to the Hindus and Muslims alike," he says.
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