Bahraich, May 11: Amid a row over Muhammad Ali Jinnah's portrait at the AMU, local BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule, who has been vocally critical of the government over Dalit issues, has termed the founder of Pakistan a 'mahapurush' (great personality), causing embarrassment to her party. She alleged that the Jinnah controversy was being raked up to divert attention from the real issues such as ensuring equal rights to Dalits.
"All the 'mahapurush' who had contributed to the freedom struggle, irrespective of their caste or community, need to be respected," the Dalit MP told newspersons here last night when asked to comment on the Jinnah controversy in AMU. Asked if Jinnah was a 'mahapurush', she replied, "He was, is, and will always remain a great person." "The portrait of such a 'mahapurush', wherever it is required, should be installed with respect... Jinnah is respected from the times of freedom struggle... His portrait is installed in the Lok Sabha... His name should be taken with respect," she said.
The BJP MP said the Jinnah controversy was being raked up to divert attention from the real issues of 'bahujan samaj' of poverty, starvation, etc. Her own party colleague and MP from Aligarh, Satish Gautam, had earlier written a letter to AMU vice-chancellor seeking explanation as to why Jinnah's portrait continues to adorn the walls of the university, triggering a massive controversy.
UP minister Swami Prasad Maurya had a few days ago said Jinnah was a great leader and demanded that Gautam be expelled from the BJP. However, he had later denied making any such remarks. To a question on Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leader Om Prakash Rajbhar's statements that backward people were being neglected, Phule said she too had felt the same way.
The Bahraich MP has virtually turned a rebel. She had earlier raised questions on BJP leaders dining at the houses of Dalits. She had in March held a "save Constitution" rally in Lucknow in which BJP flags and symbols were missing. Phule has repeatedly spoken about attacks on the Constitution and speculation is rife she may join the Bahujan Samaj Party, which she had earlier left to join the BJP.