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Muhammad Ali Jinnah [Quaid-e-Azam] |::| Services and Politics
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
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Muhammad Ali Jinnah

 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah entered politics in 1906 when Naoroji presided over the annual session of the Congress and Jinnah was his Secretary. Some weeks earlier a deputation of Muslim leaders had pleaded with the Viceroy, Lord Minto, that the Muslims had special interests and to ensure that these interests were properly looked after they should have separate electorates. Jinnah had kept aloof from this deputation: he was perhaps the only well-known Muslim then who was opposed to the Muslim demand for consideration by the British Government as "a nation within a nation". The demand was, however, accepted by the viceroy and later incorporated in the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. It is an indication of his Legislative Council from a constituency reserved for the Muslims of Bombay under the new Reforms.

Jinnah attended the annual session of the Muslim League in 1912 for the first time without being a member of the League. In the following year, he went to England where Maulana Mohammad Ali and Syed Wazir Hasan asked him to join the League. He agreed but on the understanding that "loyalty to the Muslim League and the Muslim interest would in no way at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the larger national cause, to which his life was dedicated".

More than anything else at that time, Jinnah tried to bring the Hindus and the Muslims close to each other. For this purpose, he thought, it was essential for the Muslims to have constitutional safeguards. It was largely through his efforts that, in 1915, both the Congress and the Muslim League held their annual sessions simultaneously in Bombay. Amongst those who attended this session of the League were Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Annie Besant and Sarojini Naidu. In 1916 Jinnah was elected President of the Muslim League. In that year in Lucknow, both Congress and Muslim League, agreed on a scheme of constitutional reforms for India, which is generally known as the Lucknow Pact.

In 1920, Congress, under the influence of Gandhi. decided upon a program of non--cooperation with the government and boycott of foreign goods. Jinnah, who abhorred unconstitutional means, disassociated with the Congress on this issue. In 1924 Hindu leaders started denouncing separate electorates. In the years that followed. Hindu-Muslim relations became increasingly strained.

For about three decades since his entry into politics in 1906, Jinnah passionately believed in and assiduously worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. Gokhale, the foremost Hindu leader before Gandhi, had once said of him, "He has the true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity: And, to be sure, he did become the architect of Hindu-Muslim Unity: he was responsible for the Congress-League Pact of 1916, known popularly as Lucknow Pact- the only pact ever signed between the two political organisations, the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, representing, as they did, the two major communities in the subcontinent."

The Congress-League scheme embodied in this pact was to become the basis for the Montagu-Chemlsford Reforms, also known as the Act of 1919. In retrospect, the Lucknow Pact represented a milestone in the evolution of Indian politics. For one thing, it conceded Muslims the right to separate electorate, reservation of seats in the legislatures and weightage in representation both at the Centre and the minority provinces. Thus, their retention was ensured in the next phase of reforms. For another, it represented a tacit recognition of the All-India Muslim League as the representative organisation of the Muslims, thus strengthening the trend towards Muslim individuality in Indian politics. And to Jinnah goes the credit for all this. Thus, by 1917, Jinnah came to be recognised among both Hindus and Muslims as one of India's most outstanding political leaders. Not only was he prominent in the Congress and the Imperial Legislative Council, he was also the President of the All-India Muslim and that of lthe Bombay Branch of the Home Rule League. More important, because of his key-role in the Congress-League entente at Lucknow, he was hailed as the ambassador, as well as the embodiment, of Hindu-Muslim unity.

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