Barely had the Advani crisis blown over, a fresh one showed the BJP as a house divided on Saturday. Senior party leader Jaswant Singh, denied the Barmer ticket, attacked the BJP leadership while keeping up the suspense on whether he would quit in protest.
Party chief Rajnath Singh denied any rift but his senior colleague Sushma Swaraj seemed to point to the contrary, as she expressed “pain” at the ticket decision and said it was not taken by the election committee.
Read: Outsiders, imposters encroaching upon BJP ideology: Jaswant Singh
Adding to the BJP’s headache, its ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, raked up the Advani seat row, saying the ‘Modi era’ may have begun but that didn’t mark the end of the ‘Advani era’.
But at the risk of getting the party patriarch riled up again, the BJP on Saturday denied a ticket to his aide and Ahmedabad East MP Harin Pathak, replacing him with actor Paresh Rawal.
Camping in Jodhpur, Jaswant hit out at the BJP for welcoming outsiders and diluting its ideology. The 76-year-old — overlooked for former Congressman Col Sonaram Choudhary, a new entrant — said he would announce his future course of action on March 24 in Barmer, his home constituency.
“We have to differentiate between the real and fake BJP… One has to reflect on the principles the party stood for and the direction in which it is being led now,” he said. “It is unfortunate the BJP has been taken over by elements who have never respected the party’s ideology.”
Read: BJP divided into duplicate and original, but duplicate holds reins: Jaswant Singh
Sympathising with him, Swaraj said, “It was not a normal decision. Such unusual decisions (asaadharan nirnay) are not taken without reason. There must be some reason because this is a ticket that was not decided by the election committee. It was decided later. There must be some reason but, personally, I am pained with this.”
Her remarks are being seen as an attempt by a group within the party to distance itself from the decision. But BJP spokesman Sudhanshu Trivedi refused to read too much into it, saying, “Jaswant Singh is one of the senior-most leaders of the party. His contribution to the party and the NDA government is immense. When such a senior leader leaves the party, it is painful. Sushma Swaraj expressed that pain. She has not expressed anguish or contradicted the party decision.”
Read: Jaswant Singh denied Barmer ticket, may contest as independent candidate
Reaching out to Jaswant, Rajnath said, “Jaswant Singh is a senior leader of the party and we respect him. His dignity cannot be measured in terms of tickets. We will utilize his services and experience appropriately.” Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, too, in an exclusive interview to ANI, said it was unfortunate the party could not accommodate Jaswant in Barmer, adding that they would find an alternate way of using the veteran leader’s experience.
Speaking about LK Advani’s apparent anger at not being named in the party’s first list, Rajnath said, “The first list did not include me, the BJP’s PM candidate or even the leaders of the opposition (Sushma and Arun Jaitley).”
Backing Advani, the Sena said in its mouthpiece, Saamna: “The man who built the party was kept suspended till the end and then it was after he made a noise about not wanting Gandhinagar but wanted (sic) Bhopal that everyone started running helter skelter… When everyone else including Modi, Rajnath and Arun Jaitley chose a constituency of their preference, then why not Advani?”
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The Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena has been in a sulk ever since the BJP reached out to its arch-rivals, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. It had on Friday declared it would contest in UP, Bihar and Delhi despite the BJP’s reservations.