His ‘adulation’ of Jinnah was the cause celebre, but differences have been building up between him and the BJP.
Jaswant Singh, defence, finance and foreign minister in successive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments and a member of the Parliamentary Board, the party's highest body, was today stripped of primary membership of the BJP.
The proximate reason for the expulsion was Singh’s evaluation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, considered the father of Pakistan, in a book that was released earlier this week. The book, described as "adulatory" of a hate object of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was strongly criticised by large sections of the BJP.
However, as Jaswant Singh said at a press conference later, it is unlikely that any top leader has read his book. So, a complex set of reasons worked against him. One is the role he played in Rajasthan politics as one of the most vociferous critics of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who continues to have some support in the BJP leadership. The other is the letter he wrote to the BJP leadership after the Lok Sabha elections demanding there be some correlation between “prize” (puraskar) and parinam (result).
Senior-most BJP leader L K Advani is reported to have commented that it was ironical that people who lost the Lok Sabha elections, were sent to the Rajya Sabha and made ministers should be talking about prize and performance. He was referring to Jaswant Singh’s defeat in 1998 from Chittorgarh at a time when the BJP won 177 Lok Sabha seats, reaching 250 with the help of allies.
The Chintan Baithak currently on in Shimla was preceded by a meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board. In the morning, before the board had its deliberations, members were clear that some action had to be taken against Jaswant Singh. One suggestion was that he be dropped from the board. Accordingly, he was advised to stay away from the meeting.
But when the meeting began, it took barely two minutes for the 10-member board to endorse his expulsion from the party. Both BJP President Rajnath Singh and L K Advani conveyed the decision to him on the telephone, something he referred to later with some bitterness.
That the RSS mooted the move and nobody argued against it suggests the tightening of the RSS grip on the party, avidly welcomed and encouraged by Rajnath Singh.
However, if the RSS becomes overtly intrusive in BJP affairs, the chances are the death knell will sound for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in which actors like Janata Dal United led by Nitish Kumar are active and vocal.
The veto power of the RSS also has implications for the future of leaders like LK Advani who was removed from his post of President for exactly the same sort of remarks about M A Jinnah two years ago. Today, however, Advani did not attempt to bail out his former colleague.