New Delhi: Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a "mahapurush (great man)" who contributed to India's freedom struggle, says Savitri Bai Phule, a parliamentarian of the ruling BJP, walking into an ongoing political controversy over the founder of Pakistan. Ms Phule, who has of late been seen to deviate from the party line on a range of subjects, also said Jinnah's portrait is in the Lok Sabha inside Parliament House and "should find a place wherever required".
- Amid row over Jinnah portrait, BJP lawmaker said "he was a great man"
- "He should be remembered respectfully," BJP Lawmaker Savitri Phule said
- Controversy being created to divert focus from Dalit issues, she said
"Jinnah was a great man, he fought for the nation. Jinnah's portrait features on the walls of Lok Sabha. He should be remembered respectfully; his portraits should find a place wherever required. Controversy being created to divert focus from Dalit issues, I don't agree with all this," the MP from Uttar Pradesh's Bahraich said on Thursday.
"Be it from any caste or religion, people laid sacrifices for the nation to attain independence. Such great men must be respected. All those who sacrificed for the nation's independence must be respected," she asserted.
Jinnah, a much-debated figure from India's independence movement, resurfaced in public discourse after BJP lawmaker Satish Gautam last month wrote to the Aligarh Muslim University demanding to know why his portrait was hanging on the wall of the students' union office.
The university explained that Jinnah's portrait had been there for decades since he was a founder member of the university court and had been given life membership of the union 80 years ago.
Some groups then protested at the university and clashed with the police as they tried to pull down the portrait.
Ms Phule has in recent weeks targeted her own party governments at the centre and in UP over the treatment of Dalits. She was strongly critical of the BJP's dinner-with-Dalits outreach, which has been bedeviled by gaffes from the party's ministers in UP.