Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remark that the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is a “completely secular party” ignited a political battle on Friday.
The BJP accused the Kerala-based party of being influenced by the same ideology as the Muslim League, while the Congress reminded the saffron party of its veteran leader LK Advani praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan in 2005.
During a media interaction at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Rahul was questioned about his party’s alliance with the IUML in Kerala in relation to secularism.
In response, he asserted, “The Muslim League is a completely secular party. There is nothing non-secular about the Muslim League.”
The BJP strongly reacted to Rahul’s statement, alleging that the IUML shares the same mindset as Jinnah’s All India Muslim League.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur launched a scathing attack on Rahul, stating, “These are the same people who stayed back after partition. They formed the Muslim League and became MPs. They advocated for Sharia law and demanded separate seats reserved for Muslims. These are the same people who are associated with the Muslim League.”
In a retaliatory move, the Congress argued that Rahul was referring to a different party and criticised the BJP for their affinity towards the Muslim League and their praise for Jinnah. Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “Syama Prasad Mookerjee was in league with the Muslim League in the Government in Bengal when Gandhi launched the Quit India movement. Mookerjee was singularly responsible for the partition of Bengal.”
Ramesh also highlighted a tweet by Congress leader Amitabh Dubey, who criticised BJP IT department head Amit Malviya for mistakenly conflating the Kerala-based IUML with Jinnah’s Muslim League, which embraced Savarkar’s two-nation theory.
Dubey added, “The same Muslim League with whom BJP founder SP Mookerjee and Hindu Mahasabha formed coalition Governments in Bengal, Sind, NWFP (North-West Frontier Province).”
Pawan Khera, the head of Congress’ media department, fiercely responded to the BJP’s criticism, suggesting that the BJP-RSS have a deeper understanding of Pakistan’s politics and Jinnah’s Muslim League due to their historical “jugalbandi” (partnership).
“He said the NDA Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had sent IUML leader E Ahamed to Geneva to represent India. ‘IUML established the largest Sanskrit University in Kerala. The BJP also made an alliance with IUML for Nagpur Municipal Corporation. The omniscient Vishwaguru of WhatsApp nursery, please enrich your knowledge,” Khera claimed in a Hindi tweet.
In response, the IUML welcomed Rahul’s assertion that their party is completely secular, attributing it to the Congress leader’s party experience. IUML General Secretary PK Kunhalikutty stated in a Facebook post, “Rahul’s statement that the Muslim League is a secular party is based on his party’s experience. We regard it with great responsibility. The Muslim League has had a close relationship with the Congress since the days of Indira Gandhi.”
BJP National spokesperson and MP Sudhanshu Trivedi alleged a connection between the regional party and Jinnah’s organisation, which played a significant role in the Muslim partition movement. “For the Congress, parties such as AIMIM, Muslim League, and Indian Secular Front, a West Bengal party formed by a Muslim cleric, are considered secular, while the PFI, a banned radical Islamic organisation, is seen as a cultural body,” he stated.
Mocking Rahul, Trivedi questioned the wisdom behind his claim.
In response to the BJP’s criticism, Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh emphasised that the party Rahul referred to is the IUML, which is a registered political party in India.
“Is a registered party in India not considered secular? Does the Election Commission register ineligible parties? I would like to remind the BJP that this is not the party with which Syama Prasad Mookerjee aligned to form the Government in Bengal,” Vallabh stated during a press conference at the AICC headquarters.