Bharatiya Janata Party president LK Advani's 'secularspeak' in Pakistan has not just irked his own partymen and mentors but has also not gone down well with Muslims.
Most members of the community who spoke with rediff.com called it 'doublespeak' that was 'aimed at projecting a liberal image necessary to become country's prime minister.'
In Pakistan, Advani made comments like calling Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah a secular man and the demolition of the 16th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, on December 6, 1992 as the 'saddest day of his life'.
In India, Jinnah is largely considered a follower of the 'two-nation theory' and as the man who forced the Partition.
The Babri demolition is hailed by BJP's parent organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, as a symbol of Hindutva's assertion.
Advani's statements are apparently intended to bring Muslims and secular Hindus close to the leader, who is seen as a hardcore Hindutva man who spearheaded the Babri demolition campaign.
Abdul Hameed Nomani, spokesman of leading Muslim group Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (founded in 1919), said: "There is no change in Advani. He is still an RSS man. He has been giving such statements (on Babri masjid) regularly. There is nothing new in it."
"We will take him seriously if he takes some meaningful steps in finding the solution of the problem (of Ayodhya). He is not doing that."
Ejaz Ahmed Aslam, editor of Jamat-e-Islami mouthpiece Radiance, agrees with Nomani: "I am not taking it seriously. He (Advani) has said the same thing (on Babri masjid) some years ago."
About Advani's statement that Jinnah was a secular man, Aslam says: "It is a historical question. Let historians debate on it."
Nomani says it was freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu's view that Jinnah was a secular man. Many historians believe he was in fact secular and wanted a secular Pakistani state.
"Advani has just repeated that view in front of the media. I do not see it as a change in his (Advani's) state of mind. He gave this statement looking at the bonhomie in Pakistan," says Nomani.
He feels that since relations between India and Pakistan are improving, Advani must have thought of contributing something to the process.
Many felt Advani was trying to shed his strong anti-Muslim persona and his belief in the "one nation, one people, one culture" theory. They felt Advani is trying to project himself as a 'soft man.'
Nomani says Jamiat believes that Jinnah was communal. His two-nation theory was so destructive that Muslims in the subcontinent are still bearing the burnt of it.
Muslims got divided among three countries (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). "What can be more destructive than that?" he asked, rejecting Advani's argument.
Mohammad Sajjad, a historian at Aligarh Muslim University and an expert in post-Partition politics in India, said Advani was trying to step into the shoes of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had a liberal image and thus became the consensus candidate to lead the coalition National Democratic Alliance government.
Sajjad said: "Now that Vajpayee's political career seems to be ending, Advani is trying to make himself more acceptable to the electorate so that he can become a prime ministerial candidate."
"It is just an image building exercise. I will call it a mask because this is Hindutva's old strategy of confusing people and retracting from statements. Tomorrow he may say something else. That is how their politics work," he said.
Advani represented hardline Hindutva while Vajpayee was the liberal. Now with Vajpayee's era ending, Advani is seen as taking over the mantle.
While Advani steps into Vajpayee's shoes, the Hindutva brigade including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others are making the right noises to maintain its traditional votebank.
They are all of the same family, opined Sajjad.
Radiance editor Aslam said: "Only God knows if there is any change in his (Advani's) heart. These statements are not important if we see the background of RSS, which is BJP's parent organisation. Advani is just an individual. The Sangh Parivar has been playing these games for long. It is known for doublespeak."
"Advani today is different from the pre-demolition era. May be he has realised that the hardcore Hindutva is getting diluted and to come to power one has to appeal all the sections of the society. So he may be singing a different tune but there is not much change in the kind of politics BJP is doing," he said.
Sociologist Faizan Ahmed said: "If nothing much, these statements suggest that Indians cannot accept extremism of any kind. It is a welcome move. I wish Advani really believes that December 6 was his saddest day in life."