Two days after L K Advani was virtually forced to accept the Gandhinagar ticket over his preferred Bhopal, two of his loyalists came out in strong protest against the decision-makers in the party.
Jaswant Singh, who was denied the Barmer Lok Sabha ticket on Friday, assailed the “encroachment in the party”, and asked his supporters to differentiate between the “real and fake BJP”. In Vidisha, Sushma Swaraj amplified the protest by Jaswant by describing the move as “asaadharan” (unusual), and expressing sadness over it.
Party president Rajnath Singh downplayed the apparent humiliation of Jaswant by saying his stature could not be measured merely in terms of the party ticket. But the BJP moved ahead to deal another blow to the Advani camp on Saturday by choosing actor Paresh Rawal over old Advani loyalist and seven-term MP Harin Pathak for the Ahmedabad East seat.
“We had set up a magnificent edifice that the BJP was an alternative to the misrule of the Congress. But now there is an encroachment in the BJP. Therefore, it is necessary to see who has encroached and why this encroachment has continued and is being promoted,” Jaswant said in Jodhpur on Saturday.
“Barmer is not the only seat where an outsider has been fielded, there are several such seats across the country. I want to ask the leadership on what principles have the tickets been allotted,” he said.
The BJP has chosen Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, who crossed over from the Congress this week, over Jaswant for the Barmer ticket. The decision was believed to have been taken jointly by Rajnath and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Sources close to Jaswant said he was likely to resign from the BJP on Sunday, and file his nomination as an independent candidate from Barmer on Monday.
Hurtful to think this is not ‘real’ BJP: Jaswant
The veteran leader broke down before reporters and his followers in Jodhpur, saying, “It is hurtful to even think that this is not the real BJP.” The “state and central leadership should reflect” on the “encroachment on the principles of the party”, he said. “The party worker has to differentiate between the real and fake BJP.”
In Delhi, the BJP president handed out a vague assurance that Jaswant’s experience would be leveraged after the elections.
“Jaswant Singh is a senior leader of the party and we respect him. His dignity (pratishtha) cannot be measured in terms of tickets,” Rajnath said. “We will utilize his services and experience appropriately.”
Speaking to reporters in Vidisha, however, Swaraj revealed that the decision to deny Jaswant a ticket had not even been discussed by the BJP’s election panel — thereby suggesting that a coterie led by Rajnath had taken a unilateral call.
“This is a ticket (Barmer) that was not discussed in the CEC,” Swaraj was quoted as saying. “I am personally saddened by this decision,” she said.
The BJP had earlier brushed aside her objections to BSR Congress leader B Sriramulu, giving him the ticket for Bellary in Karnataka. Like Jaswant on Friday, the decision to deny Harin Pathak the ticket on Saturday too was announced without the CEC having met.
Jaswant will visit his native village Jasol on Sunday before heading to Barmer on Monday. Sources close to the family said the leader was under pressure from supporters to contest as an independent.
Posters against the “fake BJP”, and seeking support for Jaswant, were circulated across western Rajasthan on Saturday. “Jaswant ka yeh apmaan, nahin sahega Rajasthan” (Rajasthan will not tolerate Jaswant’s insult), “waqt hai asli BJP aur nakli BJP mein chayan karein” (It is time to choose between the real and fake BJP), and “Jaswant ke saath chalein, sachhai ke saath chalein” (Back Jaswant, back the truth), said the posters, put up on vehicles of supporters, and circulated on social media.
Narendra Modi’s photo had been covered on the posters, which also had pictures of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP patriarch L K Advani.