Jaswant Singh deprecates veneration of individual by BJP

Jaisalmer: In a sharp attack on Narendra Modi and BJP campaign centric around him, expelled party veteran Jaswant Singh today deprecated "veneration" of an individual and said world was full of graveyards of those who are considered indispensable to their nation.

Singh, who was expelled by the party yesterday for six years for refusing to withdraw his nomination as an independent form Barmer, further added that no political party should become handmaiden of an individual.

He also hit hard at BJP president Rajhnath Singh saying that he had cautioned the party about his (Rajnath Singh's) presidency and that the party would be victim of his decision.

Singh said, "I don't think veneration of an individual is a proper attitude for a political party. There was a very great leader of France who said that graveyards of world are full of those who are considered indispensable to their nations.

"We must learn the essence of this. Individuals are transitory. The nation and political organisations that aspire to or endeavour to serve the country must not become handmaiden of individuals." The former Union Minister was reacting to BJP coining the "Namo" chant and glorification of individuals over party.

On a question whether it was a good thing to announce Prime Minister in advance, he said good or bad it has happened. "Samay bataega aur Bharat bhugtega," he said.

Singh said he was deeply "wounded" by decision of BJP to not let him contest from Barmer despite his plea that he wanted to serve his motherland in what could be his last term in the Lok Sabha.

The new avatar of BJP in which senior leaders are being sidelined is making the party "destructably (sic) aggressive" instead of getting progressive, Singh said here today. (MORE) PTI ABS PYK

The nine-time MP, who was one of the founding office bearers of the party, has decided to contest as an independent against BJP candidate Col Sonaram from here who switched over from Congress barely three days before getting a ticket.

Announcing his suspension yesterday, the party had said, "As per section 25(9) of the party's constitution, any leader contesting against the party's official candidate is liable for immediate expulsion.

"Accordingly, as per BJP president's directions, Jaswant Singh, MP... Has been expelled from the party for six years with immediate effect."

Slamming the party's decision against fielding him from Barmer, Singh said that its move to give the ticket to Sonaram had added to his dismay.

"The seat was not decided on 19th (March). I asked Rajnath ji what is the matter and he said he would let me know by (the next day).

"On 20th of March, on telephone when I asked him again, he said 'no, you are not the candidate from Barmer'. It was very wounding.

"And it became doubly so when the party announced that the candidate would be a Congress outcast (Col Sonaram). I simply could not understand how that was done," he said.

Retired Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, fighting on a Congress ticket, had lost to Singh's son Manvendra in 2004 elections by more than two lakh votes. Ruling NDA was defeated by Congress in the 2004 elections. The surprise announcement of Choudhary has left local BJP workers confused as they have been opposing him for over two decades.

However, when asked whether he would extend support to BJP if he wins the elections, Singh said it was a hypothetical question. On joining any political formation, Singh said he would take the decision after consulting his electorate.

"When I win this election, if the question of my any other political affiliation arises, I will come back to this land and its people and ask them what they want me to do as they would have sent me to Parliament," he said.

Singh said he is a nine-time MP and in each term he followed the instructions of senior party leaders like Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to contest from particular seat, but this being his last election, he wanted to serve the area where he was born.

Jaswant Singh said he had conveyed his wish of contesting from Barmer to his colleagues in Parliament, including LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu, after which a response was sought from local party office bearers and MLAs, all of whom favoured his candidature.

"Then a myth was put out by the Chief Minister (Vasundhara Raje) when Advani asked 'if seven MLAs are saying Jaswant Singh, why not him'. To which the Chief Minister replied (this was told to me by Mr Advani himself) in writing saying Jaswant Singh, but privately didn't favour him. So, I spoke to some friends here 'is that what you did' and they said 'not at all this is total fabrication'," he said.

When asked whether any senior leader of BJP has tried to convince him from withdrawing his candidature as an independent candidate, Singh said he was not bestowed with any such honour. Meanwhile, referring to the BJP president, Singh said with sarcasm that he alone was not the victim of the "great wisdom and leadership quality" of Rajnath Singh.

When asked whether his relationship with Rajnath was jinxed as, earlier, in 2009 also, he was expelled when the latter was the party president, Singh said, "Is my relation with him jinxed or has he got an obstacle in his mind or psyche about me? If you want my reply this is what it is."

"How is it that I am the victim of his great wisdom and leadership quality. It is not I alone. I did caution the party that it will now be the party that would be the victim of his presidency of the BJP."

The 76-year old leader, an astute diplomat, is credited with the successful handling of diplomatic crisis with the United States after the 1998 Indian nuclear tests at Pokharan.

Tasked by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to handle the sensitive issue, Singh repeated rounds of discussion with the US to ameliorate the crisis, which culminated with the visit of US President Bill Clinton.

Known to be a moderate and secular face of BJP, Singh was expelled in 2009 for his scholarly work, 'Jinnah: India- Partition-Independence' and his statement that former Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was in agreement about India's partition in 1947.

"My expulsion was never explained to me. Even later, when I had the occasion to ask (Rajnath) and others, none of them gave an answer. (Muhammad Ali) Jinnah had nothing to do with it. The book was banned in Gujarat on account of my saying that Patel had supported the partition. So, what is the point of that great saying by Tagore "where the head is held high and mind is without fear..." he said.

Asked why he decided to return to the party in 2010, Singh said he is a nine-term parliamentarian and had held crucial ministerial positions in External Affairs, Finance and Defence ministries and was also Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, which was all possible because of the party and its leadership.

"I could not conceive being in any other party. It is a tough question why did I rejoin the party. Shri Nitin Gadkari and Shri Advani invited me back and admitted that it was a mistake (his expulsion) that occurred in Shimla.

"They said the party needs you. Members of my family were torn whether I should go back or not, cautioning me that the party will not treat you with customary courtesy and I might not receive the consideration that is due to me," he said.

Singh along with Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Lal Muni Choubey were denied tickets from their preferred seats. Senior leader Lalji Tandon has not been given a chance to contest the elections.

PTI
First Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014, 15:16
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