February 26, 2020
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'Advani Said Nothing Wrong'

Isolated in the party, the BJP national secretary believes Advani is engaged in a great project to bring lasting peace between India and Pakistan.

'Advani Said Nothing Wrong'
Advani's sole supporter on the Jinnah issue remains BJP national secretary Sudheendra Kulkarni, who accompanied him on his Pakistan trip. Isolated in the party, Kulkarni believes Advani is engaged in a great project to bring lasting peace between India and Pakistan. Kulkarni spoke to Outlook. Excerpts:

Did you and Advaniji go wrong on the Jinnah statement?
How was the Jinnah statement a mistake? If there was any reaction, it should have come from Pakistan...that it has failed to live up to Jinnah's vision. How is it a problem for India? Why should Advani retract when he's said nothing wrong?

You are aware that the BJP's cadre cannot accept this?
That does not mean that we can paint any historical figure as a demon without looking at his complexities. Politics that is not based on truth will hit many minefields.

So Advaniji is not backtracking?
Why should he retract? Great projects are met with great resistance. I believe for the first time there is a healthy debate on Jinnah. Partition was not inevitable. It could have been avoided. Let there be a debate about the contribution of others like Nehru to the events that led to Partition. The debate has already begun. This is political education of the best kind.

Isn't Advaniji facing a huge problem persuading his own party that such a debate is healthy?
You are looking at the events of the day. The brief storm that took place. The misunderstanding that has arisen will be removed. The aftermath of the Pakistan visit will be overcome. Politics has to be based on truth. Advaniji's visit to Pakistan should be seen in its totality. I believe he has made a seminal contribution to building mutual trust between the people of India and Pakistan. There is a certain continuity in the vision that has guided both Atalji and Advaniji. They both realise that no party can govern India without the trust of a large section of society like the Muslims. Advaniji has said repeatedly that there is a gap between his image and his real self. There has been a perception that he is anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. That has now changed.

So it's all about an image make-over?
More than anything, he cares deeply for the future of the party.

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