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Jaswant expelled; split widens in BJP
Published on 20 Aug. 2009 12:54 AM IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrestling with unprecedented internal dissent, Wednesday expelled its veteran leader Jaswant Singh from the party over alleged ideological transgressions related to his remarks on Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The decision to expel the 71-year-old leader, a former Indian Army major in the Armoured Corps who has held the portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs in BJP-led governments, was taken by the party’s parliamentary board, said BJP president Rajnath Singh. The decision, according to party insiders, carried the imprimatur of L.K. Advani who himself had raised a storm in the party with his eulogistic views on Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan four years ago. Within hours of his expulsion, Jaswant Singh who was in Shimla but had been instructed by Rajnath Singh to stay away from the ‘chintan baithak (introspection session) as “tempers were running high”, met the media and said with tears in his eyes: “I have committed no sin.” He said he had been expelled “for merely writing a book” without even the courtesy of a show-cause notice. As someone who had been associated with the party for 30 years since his inception, he said, the decision had left him saddened but he would not appeal against the move. “I do not want to compromise on my self-respect for the path I have chosen for myself,” he said, stressing that his political career was far from over in spite of this setback. Jaswant Singh, an MP from Darjeeling, has also been stripped of all party posts. “He is now not a member of any forum of the party. I tried to inform him yesterday on the phone but he had left for Shimla,” Rajnath Singh said lamely about why Jaswant Singh, who reached Shimla Tuesday afternoon for the three-day meeting, had not been informed. On Tuesday, Rajnath Singh said the BJP had dissociated itself from the Jaswant Singh’s views on Jinnah. “I put up the issue before the parliamentary board today, which decided to cancel his primary membership and he has been expelled from the party,” he said. The former union minister earned the ire of party leaders for his book “Jinnah: India - Partition - Independence” that was released in New Delhi Monday. He said he had researched the book for five years and did not regret one bit his decision to write the book. “When a political party stops thinking, stops debating, stops discussion, it is not a happy sign and reflects poorly on the country’s polity.” While all party leaders, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj, were at the state guest house Peterhoff, Jaswant Singh cocooned himself in his hotel and did not meet any of the leaders. He also did not attend a dinner Tuesday evening hosted by leader of the opposition L.K. Advani for BJP leaders, including chief ministers of various BJP-ruled states. Lauding Jinnah as a “great man” in his book, Jaswant Singh has said Jinnah was “demonised” in India, while it was actually India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel whose belief in a centralised polity had led to the partition of the subcontinent. Jaswant Singh has also strongly contested the popular Indian view that Jinnah was the villain of the 1947 partition or the man principally responsible for it. “I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon... We needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the subcontinent was the partition of the country,” he said in an interview to a TV channel. Many BJP supporters have not taken too kindly to the decision, which took even members of the party by surprise. Arun Shourie, identified as one of three along with Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha who demanded soul-searching in the party after its poll defeat, said he would not like to comment on party matters.

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