The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expelled senior leader Jaswant Singh for six years late on Saturday night after he did not budge from his stand to contest as an independent candidate from Barmer in Rajasthan.
The 76-year-old was busy campaigning even as the last day of withdrawal of candidature came and passed by on Saturday. According to BJP sources, the saffron party's constitution makes it clear that any leader contesting against the official candidate was liable to be expelled, a PTI report said.
Jaswant had filed his nomination papers last Monday from Barmer after the BJP's ticket went to ex-Congressman Sonaram Choudhary, who is believed to have the support of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
"Jaswant Singh has exhausted all constitutional options available to the party by deciding not to withdraw from the contest," a senior leader said.
Jaswant, born in Barmer's Jasol village, had wanted to contest from his home turf. The Rajput and Muslim communities are rallying behind Jaswant, who is the sitting parliamentarian from Darjeeling in West Bengal, and could upset the BJP's game plan in Barmer.
Turning the heat on the saffron brigade, Jaswant had said earlier, "There are two BJPs now. One is authentic and the other is fake."
He had accused BJP president Rajnath Singh and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje of “betraying” him.
The Jaswant episode took the decisive turn on a day when ex-JD(U) leader Sabir Ali's membership was annulled by the BJP following protests over his allege terror links and proved to be an embarrassment for the party.
This isn’t the first time the BJP has taken such action against Singh, a close aide of former prime minister AB Vajpayee. He was expelled from the party in 2009 for eulogising Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his book but was brought back a year later during Nitin Gadkari’s tenure as BJP chief.
Singh wasn’t the only leader to face such stern action from the BJP on Saturday. A former minister of state, Subhash Maheria, who had also fielded nomination papers as an independent candidate from Sikar, was also expelled.
BJP state president Ashok Parnami, without naming Maharia, said in Jaipur that the party's disciplinary committee would serve notices to all rebel candidates and they could be expelled from the party for six years.
"We have sought details about all such rebel candidates which will be referred to our disciplinary committee, which will take action against them as per the party rules. Rebels are expelled from the party for six years," Parnami told reporters.
Amit Shah justifies decision to deny ticket to Jaswant Singh
Maharia also filed the nominations papers as Independent from Sikar parliamentary constituency after the BJP denied him the ticket.
Provision 25(9) of the BJP constitution gives the president of the state or central unit the power to take action against those leaders who challenge the party’s official candidate in any election.
Earlier, BJP's firefighters had to pacify senior leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi over ticket distribution,
In another controversy, Sushma Swaraj had opposed Karnataka leader B Sriramulu's entry into the BJP, making public her aversion against fielding him in the Lok Sabha elections from Bellary for his links with the controversial mining barons, the Reddy brothers.