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Three theories and an expulsion

india Updated: Aug 21, 2009 00:12 IST
Vir Sanghvi
Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times
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What led the BJP to expel Jaswant Singh, one of its most senior and most respected leaders? Three theories are being offered. The first is the official BJP line. On Wednesday, this consisted of the claim that Singh had praised Jinnah and therefore crossed some Lakshman Rekha. By Thursday, when it was pointed out that by those standards, L.K. Advani should also have been expelled, this was altered to the claim that he had been less than respectful about Sardar Patel in his book.

Why should a BJP member writing about the partition of India be obliged to praise Sardar Patel, a lifelong Congressman? And why should a failure to do so be regarded as an unpardonable offence? The BJP has yet to offer any credible clarifications.

That leaves two other theories. The first is that Advani and Rajnath Singh have been so perturbed by the RSS’s dissatisfaction with the way in which the BJP is being run that they are seeking to please the Sangh by following a Hindutva hardline. The problem with this theory, being advanced by some BJP MPs, is that the RSS never demanded Jaswant Singh’s expulsion.

Besides, Advani seems to have come to the decision to sack Jaswant Singh rather late. According to sources close to Jaswant Singh, he told Jaswant to go ahead and come to Shimla for the chintan baithak when Jaswant asked him whether it was advisable for him to stay away. A day later, Jaswant was expelled.

Moreover, there is no doubt that Advani had access to Jaswant’s book long before it was formally published. Jaswant Singh has confirmed that Advani saw the book. It is rumoured, but not confirmed, that Jaswant actually sent the controversial chapters to Advani as soon as he finished writing them and even before the book was submitted to the publisher.

In the circumstances, a third theory has gained ground. According to this view, Jaswant Singh’s book was only a pretext for the sacking; it was not the provocation.

Jaswant Singh has alienated many of the BJP’s senior leaders. He has questioned the appointment of the party leaders in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. He has been critical of Rajnath Singh’s stewardship of the party. And he has made common cause with such dissidents as Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha.

Sources at the chintan baithak say that the attack on Jaswant was launched by Narendra Modi who argued that Jaswant’s criticism of Sardar Patel would adversely affect the BJP’s prospects in Gujarat. Modi was supported by Ananth Kumar who claimed that Jaswant’s views went against the BJP’s ideology.

Once the attack began, others quickly joined in with Rajnath Singh’s tacit encouragement. The speed with which it was decided to expel Jaswant Singh without issuing a show-cause notice or giving him a chance to explain suggests that the attack had been pre-planned. It was launched with the purpose of throwing out a man who has alienated the BJP’s establishment and its Young Turks.

Those who incline to this theory say that the blood-letting has only just begun. Jaswant’s fellow dissidents will be drummed out of the party, Advani will become a marginal figure and a younger generation of hardline leaders led by the likes of Modi will take over the party. The BJP’s decision to go after Vasundhara Raje is being linked to a desire on the part of these leaders to eliminate any competition within their generation.

As of now, the BJP is not ready to show any mercy to Jaswant despite the public outcry that has greeted his expulsion. In the months ahead, this take-no-prisoners attitude will continue and more heads are likely to roll.