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`Pained` Jaswant Singh to quit BJP?

The ticket distribution row got heated for the BJP when senior leader Jaswant Singh decided to contest from Rajasthan`s Barmer seat as an Independent candidate.

Zee Media Bureau

Jaipur: The ticket distribution row got heated for the BJP on Saturday when senior leader Jaswant Singh appeared to keep his options open on contesting from Rajasthan`s Barmer seat as an Independent.

Jaswant Singh today ruled out any compromise on his demand for Barmer constituency.

He also made veiled attacks on the party leadership but took no names. As party President Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley spoke of utilising Singh`s services in an appropriate manner, the BJP leader said: "The party has done this to me twice now and now there is no chance of accepting any alternative proposal."

His statement comes a day after the BJP gave Barmer ticket to a recent entrant and Congress defector Colonel Sonaram Chowdhry.

Referring to the denial of ticket to him and the "disregarding" of other senior leaders in the party, Singh said that "this party of ideology is tragically being encroached upon by those, who have been arch detractors of BJP`s ideology."

"It is so unfortunate that the BJP has been completely taken over by the elements (outsiders), who never have any respect of party`s ideology", he said without naming anyone.

The former union minister said that the BJP was now divided into two factions "one which is real and the other is unreal or better put original and duplicate. Unfortunately the duplicate part has the reins of party now."

Opposing giving tickets to those who have recently joined the party either as defectors or as new entrants in politics, Singh remarked sarcastically that "for them it is easy to have a BJP ticket than to have a rail or a flight."

Singh turned emotional as he spoke of his "pain" but made it clear that he does not want to do the "politics" of emotions.

He recalled the contributions of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani in building the party and wondered where the party is going now.

A close associate of Vajpayee as well as Advani, whose influence has also waned in the party, he said it is important for the subscribers of the philosophy of BJP to know who has "encroached" on it.

"They should ask where is the party going."

Albeit he is slated to come to Barmer in a couple of days and seek feedback from local supporters and leaders before filing his nomination papers, yet reports on Saturday said the senior leader may quit the BJP on Sunday.
Sources said that if he was given a go-ahead by his supporters, he will contest the elections.

After denying ticket to Jaswant Singh from Barmer, the BJP today sought to placate him saying that he is a senior leader and his services will be utilised appropriately.

Amid reports that Jaswant Singh is planning to quit BJP, party president Rajnath Singh insisted that his "respect" cannot be determined on the basis of ticket.

"Jaswant Singh is a senior leader of the party and we respect him. His dignity cannot be measured in terms of tickets. We will utilise his services and experience appropriately," Rajnath Singh told reporters here.

Asked whether the party will take action against him if he contests as an Independent as is being reported, the BJP chief dismissed it as a hypothetical question.

Earlier in the day, the BJP president reportedly informed Jaswant Singh that the party would not change the candidate for Barmer seat.

Jaswant Singh represented Darjeeling in the outgoing 15th Lok Sabha.

He wanted to fight election from Barmer this time, but the party fielded Colonel Sonaram, who recently switched to the BJP from the Congress.

Following strong protests from some BJP party workers against denial of BJP ticket to Jaswant Singh, a meeting was held at the home of former union minister`s son Manvendra Singh on Friday night.

His supporters in Barmer chalked out a strategy to field him as an Independent.
Some workers even took out a protest rally and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje holding her responsible for denial of the ticket to Jaswant Singh. They also shouted slogans against her.

"Colonel Sonaram had been with Congress for years. Now he has switched loyalties and joined BJP. Fielding him immediately after joining BJP has sent a wrong message to the voters. He should have made to work in the organisation at least for some years before he was given such an opportunity," said a local BJP leader.

If Jaswant Singh decides to contest, he may upset the equations against Sonaram as there are at least 1.5 lakh Rajput voters in Barmer constituency.

"He has influence over voters from other castes also, so Jaswant Singh will definitely make life difficult for the BJP candidate," said Vijay Sharma, a political analyst.

Voting for the 25 parliamentary constituencies in the state will take place on April 17 and 24. In the last elections in 2009, the Congress won 20 seats and the BJP four, while one seat was won by an Independent.

Jaswant Singh hails from Jasol village in Barmer district.

He was member of the union Cabinet during the NDA government.

(With Agency inputs)

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