August 19, 2009 9:48:00 am
In a move that shifted focus from the Chintan Baithak called to discuss accounatbility for the election defeat and the ongoing tussle for power,the BJP on Wednesday expelled senior leader Jaswant Singh for his praise of Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah in a book which the party claims sullies the image of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The BJP top brass,after skipping the release in Delhi of Singhs book Jinnah India,Partition,Independence,gathered in Shimla for a three-day brainstorming session but their first act this morning was to expel the former Union Minister who had held key portfolios in the Vajpayee government.
Jaswant Singh was made to wait in his room at the Oberoi Cecil,not far from the Baithak venue at the Peterhoff hotel. He was asked by BJP president Rajnath Singh not to attend the Baithak and later informed over telephone about his expulsion by the party parliamentary board.
Kya karein,naseeb mein jab yahi likha tha (What can I do if this was destined)… I got a call from Rajnath Singh who informed me about the decision,but thats hardly the way to treat someone who was once described as Hanuman to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Have I suddenly become Ravan in todays BJP? Jaswant Singh told The Indian Express.
Thirty years of my political life with the BJP and (being expelled) on this note… saddened me and on the ground for writing a book,that saddened me even more,immensely more… The day India starts questioning thought,it starts questioning reading,writing,publishing,we are entering a very very dark alley, he said.
But the party parliamentary board was convinced that Jaswant deserved every bit of this punitive action. After Rajnath Singh referred to the statement he made in Delhi dissociating the party from Jaswants book,the floor was thrown open to others. Murli Manohar Joshi,Vinay Katiyar and S S Ahluwalia were among those who said that every attempt must be made to rid the party of any anti-Sardar Patel stigma.
Though not a board member,Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi,who models himself on Sardar Patel,also spoke,favouring firm action against Jaswant. He took the lead by getting the book banned in Gujarat. L K Advani, sources present at the meeting said,offered full support to action against Jaswant because this blasphemy,committed by a senior party leader,could have cost the party dear in the long run,especially from the Congress.
While sources close to Rajnath claimed he had asked Jaswant to delay the launch of the book,Jaswant confirmed that he had informed the party president about the August 17 launch of the book and that he had initially also expressed his inability to attend the conclave since it was earlier scheduled to start August 17. Jaswant said he had also sent copies of his book to Advani ahead of the launch.
It is a warning that those interested in reading or writing or researching would have no place here. Have they even read the book before taking this action against me? If you try to throttle this freedom,it is going to be dangerous for democracy. Expulsion is not the end of politics. I am saddened by this,but I will neither appeal against the decision nor ask for its review, Jaswant Singh said.
Sources,however,said that after some plain-speaking from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat yesterday,the controversy over Jaswants new book served the party just fine.
Bhagwat raised a number of uncomfortable questions for the BJP brass. Also,this conclave was convened essentially to discuss the partys loss in elections and issues like accountability in the running of the party,raised by Jaswant,others like Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. The conclave will now be remembered more for Jaswants expulsion from the party, said a senior party leader.
Questions were already being asked why Jaswant was targeted when Advani too had made some observations about Jinnah during his Pakistan visit in 2005… which were not in sync with the partys views. Many BJP leaders countered that Advani had never questioned Jinnahs role in Partition,that he had never brought disrepute to Patel.
Party sources said Jaswant had an inkling of what was in store for him after Rajnaths public statement in Delhi and thats why he checked in at the Oberoi Cecil and not the Peterhoff where he was supposed to stay with other leaders.
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