As a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jaswant Singh served in several central ministries for the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. He was the Union finance minister for the last two years in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government (from 2002 to 2004). During his tenure as the finance minister, Singh introduced the state Value Added Tax (VAT), which helped states generate more revenue. Jaswant Singh also slashed the custom duties.
Having previously served in the Indian Army, Singh joined active politics later in life and was among the founding members of the BJP. He was a member of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at different times for several terms. He was elected to Rajya Sabha five times and Lok Sabha four times.
As the Union external affairs minister in the Vajpayee government, Singh was the points person for negotiations during the infamous Kandahar hijacking case, when terrorists held fliers on board Indian Airlines’ IC-814 flight hostage on December 24, 1999, and demanded the release of several terrorists jailed in India. It was through Singh’s negotiations that the hijackers curtailed their demands and India had to release only three terrorists — Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Mulana Masood Azhar.
Singh was also instrumental in mending ties with the United States of America after the latter imposed sanctions on India following the nuclear tests of 1998. He also dealt with Pakistan with a strong hand after the 1999 Kargil war.
In 2012, he was BJP's nominee for Vice-President's post. Singh got the support of AIADMK but lost to the United Progressive Alliance's candidate Hamid Ansari.
Among the controversies he courted, Jaswant Singh was criticised for praising Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his book Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence. Later, he was also expelled from the party.
In 2010, the BJP took Singh back in the party but refused to give him a ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. When the party fielded Col Sonaram Choudhary from his home constituency of Barmer, Singh quit the BJP again and fought contested the election independently. Singh, however, lost the election and suffered head injuries later that year. He passed away in September 2020.