Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh is not happy. The party's denial of a ticket to him from Barmer has led to turmoil within the BJP in Rajasthan.
The former Union minister had announced earlier that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections would be his last. Hence, the 76-year-old wanted to contest these polls from his home turf of Barmer.
Singh, who belongs to Jasol village in Barmer district, wields considerable influence in the Marwar region of the state.
However, he has had differences with chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and has expressed his displeasure at the party's decision to field former Congress leader Colonel Sonaram Chaudhary (retd) from Barmer.
If Singh quits the BJP before the elections, it could spoil the poll calculations of the party, which is eyeing the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan.
Singh talks to Urvashi Dev Rawal.
Why are you upset with the BJP?
The party ideology is being encroached upon by people who are being imported into the BJP. There are two BJPs now. One is authentic and the other is fake. Our party workers and supporters will have to differentiate between the two.
Do you feel the party is sidelining senior leaders?
It is not a question of senior leaders versus juniors. Of course, the kind of experience senior leaders bring to the party benefits the party. But the party's territory and ideological premise has been encroached upon, so it is necessary for the party to reflect on this. I feel there are more members and elements, who are not BJP-oriented but are infringing on the party and diluting its ideology.
Have you informed the BJP leadership of your unhappiness?
Yes, I have. I exchange views with party leaders on a daily basis, so my stance is not unknown to them. I spoke to Rajnath Singh and other leaders, and expressed my displeasure to them. The selection and recommendation of candidates should not be up to someone's whims and fancies. The party has a system in place, which is exhaustive and consultative.
The party (while taking feedback) had asked office bearers in Barmer about their preferred party candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, and a majority of them had kindly recommended my name. Then the MLAs were asked the same question and all MLAs from Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency also suggested only one name – mine.
No one took the name of the candidate that was finally chosen.
What is your next step? Will you quit the party?
I will go to Barmer on March 24 and consult my colleagues. I will also visit some villages around Jodhpur and on the way to Barmer. I will also talk to the media on March 24 and then issue a statement about my future course of action.
Is there any way in which you might reconsider your stance?
I cannot trade my honour. There can be no compromise with integrity and steadfastness I have conducted myself with since my army days. My political life has never been one of scheming, and I am not cutting any deal.
Do you feel Narendra Modi is the right choice for the party's prime ministerial candidate?
See, it's important to understand that if the BJP finds fault with the Congress and its administration, which I believe has been the worst in over 60 years, then the BJP must not compromise on its own stand and the ideology it has stood for all these years.
Is it the current political scenario and the desire for power that is making the BJP compromise on its ideology?
The BJP must not compromise on its ideology for the sake of wining seats.
Can you elaborate on the party's ideology? Do you mean the BJP is no longer a 'party with a difference'?
There are growing voices from the states that the party is favouring outsiders and imposters, who are hurting the BJP and its image. There were certain ideals and principles that the BJP stood for.
Do you see the Congress as a challenge in these elections?
The Congress is not a challenge in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but it has a standing of its own and will put up some resistance to the BJP's assault.