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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

Remarks against Patel, not Jinnah, did him in

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 19, 2009
First Published: 23:40 IST(19/8/2009) | Last Updated: 15:26 IST(25/8/2009)
Jaswant Singh may think he was expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) merely for writing a book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a hate figure for his party and its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS).

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But Singh had it coming, say BJP insiders. If it was only praise of Jinnah, Singh could have expected a more calibrated
response against him.

What could not be digested by senior BJP leaders and cadres was Singh’s decision to fault Sardar Patel, along with Jawarharlal Nehru for causing Partition.

It was not a surprise that an Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader like Vinay Katiyar from Uttar Pradesh rang up several top leaders, including Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley demanding that Singh be expelled forthwith for “insulting” Patel. Listen to podcast audio

Unlike L.K. Advani’s face-off with the party on his remarks on Jinnah being secular, which lost him the post of BJP president in 2005, the National Democratic Alliance government’s foreign and finance minister complicated his case by too statements in his book that knocked at the BJP’s fundamental views.

Singh made the “cardinal mistake” of casting an aspersion on Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Gujarat’s hero and icon of the BJP-RSS family for his role in the unification of India after Independence, said a top BJP leader.

“He was expelled for not writing a book but for the contents of the book. He blamed Patel for Partition and alleged alienation of Muslims, an issue that the BJP has never accepted on the ground that it smacks of vote-bank politics,” he said.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi ordered a ban on the book after he was told that the Opposition Congress was planning a massive agitation on the issue.

After positioning himself as a hard dissenter following the Lok Sabha election debacle, Singh’s book, Jinnah — India, Partition, Independence, seemed like the last straw for him.

Singh did not enjoy a mass base or popularity because of his personality and style of functioning. He, however, owed his rise to former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee propping him up in the NDA government — to check Advani’s influence.

Nevertheless, Advani too gave him a place of importance, both for his standing as a founding member of the BJP and for being one who played a part right from the Jan Sangh days.

The 1999 hijack episode was a turning point. A divided Vajpayee cabinet had to agree on Singh escorting three jihadi terrorists in an official aircraft to Kandahar in Aghanistan, where they were released in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane.

Singh and Advani never agreed on the issue and their accounts of the episode remained a sore point but their differences remained under a lid.


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