Friday, February 7, 2014
Every school student knows, or should know, that the Muslim League shadowed the Congress during the pre-Independence days, and during the Provincial Assembly elections of 1946 won a quarter of the seats, making it the second largest national party. With Independence and the partition of India, the Muslim League was also splintered. In December 1947, a meeting of the League in Karachi, it was agreed that those members who had opted to stay back in India would constitute the Indian Union Muslim League.
Many such members were from south India and therefore it was natural that the first meeting of the IUML would be held in Madras. That was on March 10, 1948 at the Rajaji Hall (then known as Banqueting Hall). The meeting elected Muhammad Ismail, who had been the Leader of the Opposition in the Provincial Assembly of Madras, as the first President of the IUML. Ismail also served on the Constituent Assembly, and in the Rajya Sabha, as a representative of the Madras State. In 1956, after the states were reorganized, Ismail moved to Kerala and won three elections to the Lok Sabha from Manjeri.
There are two colleges in his honour in Chennai itself. The bridge that gets people out of Fort St George and onto Mount Road reminds us of him. Appropriate, considering that Muhammad Ismail sought to connect different sections of people in his days of public service, both as a politician and as a member of various industry and advisory bodies. Despite all these visible reminders, not many remember Muhammad Ismail today. The colleges, and this bridge are all named after his title, "Quaid-e-Millat"!