New Delhi, Mar 27: Maintaining that his visit to Pakistan in 2005 was aimed at normalising relations between the two estranged nations, BJP prime ministerial candidate and Leader of the Opposition L K Advani said the controversy over his remark on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah brought him ''pain''.
In his autobiography ''My Country, My Life'' released recently, he recalled that the controversy was ''simply the most agonising moment of his political life, more distressing indeed, than when he faced corruption charges in the 'Hawala' episode in 1996.'' He withstood Hawala charges as his party stood by him while in Jinnah controversy, several of his party colleagues chose not to support him even as the remarks were made in good intention to convey a point that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a non-theocratic state.
''I went to Pakistan as a messenger of peace, with an earnest desire to contribute to the normalisation of relations between our two long-estranged nations. I still believe that my visit made a finite contribution to the advancement of this objective,'' he writes after three years of his visit, which forced him to quit the party post within a year after assuming the charge for the third-term.
Mr Advani said his ''approbatory references'' to Jinnah's speech of August 11, 1947 at Pakistan's Constituent Assembly precipitated quite a controversy back home in India, particularly within BJP's own support base. ''I was hastily held guilty of committing a grave and unacceptable 'ideological deviation', of having betrayed Hindutva' and in the estimation of some, even of being a 'gaddaar' (traitor),'' Mr Advani said.
Mr Advani has, however, noted that there were a large number of people, both from within BJP and outside, who felt that it was a needless controversy. ''I had quoted from a largely forgotten speech of Jinnah to remind the people of Pakistan about the vision of a non-theocratic state that its own founder had articulated,'' he elaborated in his defence.
The senior BJP leader further said his critics should remember that his remark on Jinnah at the followed inauguration of a project by him for restoration of Katas Raj Temples, of Mahabharata era, about 100 km from Lahore, the first to be restored after the creation of Pakistan. ''But some of my own ideological fraternity had failed to appreciate the significance of this event,'' he regretted.