Jaswant pays price for book

Decision to expel him from BJP taken ahead of Shimla brainstorming session

Jaswant pays price for book

Jaswant Singh addresses a press conference in Shimla on Wednesday. AFP

The nugget of historical information that Jaswant Singh projected and analysed in his book, Jinnah –India, Partition, Independence, will forever be argued and interpreted in history tracts in the future.

But his expulsion, on the first day of the party’s Shimla brainstorming session on Wednesday, would surely leave a sore point within the BJP: It was announced, rather stoically, by none other than the party’s so-called “Iron Man” L K Advani who was railed a few years ago for his comment that Jinnah was secular. At that time, the maelstrom of indignation within the party rank-and-file left Advani virtually untouched.

The immediate provocation for Jaswant Singh’s expulsion from the BJP’s primary membership was his book (released here on August 17) that carried critical references against India’s first home minister Sardar Patel’s stand on Partition and words of praise for the Pakistan’s Qaid-e-Azam.

A shocked and “saddened” Singh said the harsh decision was taken even though “the BJP has not completely read my book.” He regretted that Advani did not show the courtesy of informing him in person of the Parliamentary Board’s decision.

The expulsion message was conveyed to Jaswant Singh by party president Rajnath Singh over telephone. For Jaswant, the writing on the wall was perhaps made clear earlier in the day when Rajnath bluntly told him not to turn up for the party’s Parliamentary Board meeting as “tempers are running high (on the Jinnah issue).” Within moments he received the sack order. The rumblings within the party were noticeable on Tuesday when it “completely disassociated” itself with Jaswant Singh’s version on Jinnah and Patel.

According to sources, the expulsion decision, which was taken before the leaders of party, battered from within by infighting and indiscipline, settled down on the heights of Shimla for the chintan baithak. The “final push” was provided by the RSS, sources told Deccan Herald.

While the book’s contents likely did Jaswant in, speculation is rife that his stand on the controversy that has erupted in Rajasthan over former chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia could be the real reason for his sack. All Jaswant said in Shimla was: “They removed me for a book.”

Next step

Asked what his next step would be, Jaswant, elected to the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling in West Bengal, replied wryly: “My next step would be to find the most convenient way to reach Delhi.” The former finance and external affairs minister in the BJP-led NDA government is a lonely man. But he does intend to continue as a Member of Parliament.

   Soon after hearing his expulsion, Jaswant, 71, wondered on his sudden fall from being party’s “Hanuman” to its “Ravana.” He referred to a cartoon in India Today magazine that had portrayed him as Hanuman and said he had now become the BJP’s Ravana. “I have been a member of the BJP since it was formed (in 1980) and had never imagined that the 30 years of my service would ended this way. It is  regretful,” Jaswant, clearly shaken and stunned, said.

Articulate as ever, Jaswant’s comments on the manner in which the BJP was conducting itself on several issues said it all: “I am worried and sad that just one book has led to my expulsion. I wonder what would happen if soch, vichar and chintan (thought, analysis and introspection) stopped in Indian politics.” But Jaswant, who had the ignominous distinction of escorting five of India’s most dreaded terrorists to the safety of Taliban-held Kandahar in 1999, said he did not regret writing the book.

In 2005, L K Advani was asked to step down from the post of party president after he described Jinnah as “secular” during his much publicised visit to Karachi.

DH News Service

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