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Jaswant Singh walks it alone in Barmer

BJP veteran Jaswant Singh on Monday filed his nomination papers for Rajasthan's Barmer seat making it clear he will fight his last political battle as an Independent candidate.Full coverage:My India my voteAmit Shah justifies decision to deny ticket

india Updated: Mar 25, 2014 08:51 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Jaswant Singh,BJP,bharatiya janata party

On the day when an angry Jaswant Singh joined the poll race from Barmer as an independent candidate and hit out at the BJP leadership, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat signalled to party seniors that “change was inevitable” to make the “journey successful”.

Bhagwat said confrontation was inevitable where self interest was involved and dialogue was the only way forward.

The advice came at the re-launch of the Sangh’s mouthpiece, Organiser and Panchjanya, in Delhi where BJP patriarch LK Advani – who is also upset with the BJP’s decision-making process – was also present.

Hours earlier, defying the BJP after being denied a ticket from Rajasthan’s Barmer, Jaswant Singh on Monday filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate from the Lok Sabha seat and attacked party president Rajnath Singh and state chief minister Vasundhara Raje, accusing them of "betraying" him.

The rebellious leader also said the “NaMo, NaMo drama and the current style of decision-making will be destructive for the party.”

Read: Jaswant case: Amit Shah justifies decision to deny ticket

The veteran BJP leader has announced that this will be his last political battle, adding to the BJP's problems ahead of the national elections.

“I suggested Vasundhara Raje for chief minister and Rajnath Singh for BJP president. They have betrayed me,” he said at a rally in Barmer. “I have been Barmer's MP for nine terms. I wanted to contest my 10th term too from here; Advani had assured me… The ticket was given to someone who crossed over from the Congress. The principles of the BJP have been betrayed,” he added.

The 76-year-old leader took the step after the saffron party gave the Barmer election ticket to former Congressman Sonaram Chaudhary, who is said to have been backed by state chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

“No announcement was made about Barmer in first few meetings (of the BJP’s central election committee). I called up Rajnath Singh. He informed me the next day that I won't be given ticket... Who was given ticket? Not a BJP worker but somebody who joined the BJP from the Congress and had been abusing us till recently. I was very hurt,” Jaswant Singh said at a press conference after filing his nominations.

“In a sudden move, I was unceremoniously ousted from the party once earlier. Nitin Gadkari and LK Advani had asked me to rejoin the party... Not even a peon is treated the way as I was,” Jaswant said. He added he would leave the decision on his continuing with the BJP to the top party leaders.

Singh recalled his long association with the party's founder leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani and lamented its current state of affairs. “I have taken a step for Barmer. Relief is what I am feeling right now.”

"People will tell me whether I should win. I am contesting on principles and not just my honour but the honour of people," he added.

Jaswant, born in Barmer's Jasol village, wanted to contest from his home turf. The Rajput and Muslim communities are rallying behind Jaswant and could upset the BJP's game plan in Barmer.

The BJP had made it clear it will not entertain his request with Arun Jaitley saying on Sunday leaders should learnt accept "no" after being showered with privileges.

"Membership of a political party is a privilege. It is also an act of self oppression where personal views and ambitions are subjected to collective wisdom of the party. At times, the party may flood leaders with privileges and positions. On other occasions, the leader may have to take 'no' as an answer to his desires," Jaitley wrote on his website.

Jaitley on Sunday said the politician or leader denied a ticket must accept the decision with a "smile".

"This becomes a test of his loyalty and discipline. Restraint and silence are always a preferred option. Over reaction may prove be a transient storm in a tea cup. Silence is always dignified and more gracious," he said in an oblique reference to the BJP veteran.

Read: Outsiders, imposters encroaching upon BJP ideology: Jaswant Singh

Jaswant on Sunday said the party will pay a price due to the internal strife that has deprived him of a Lok Sabha ticket.

"The leadership of the party needs to reflect deeply on the reasons why this situation has arisen," he told IANS.

"There are differences in the party which have come to the surface. So there are bound to be repercussions. The party will have to bear this effect," added the former external affairs minister.

Jaswant represented Darjeeling in West Bengal in the outgoing Lok Sabha. The BJP has fielded SS Ahluwalia, also formerly of the Congress, from there.

He had said on Sunday he had decided to contest the elections as an Independent.

"Whether as an Independent candidate or not will depend on the party's attitude," he told PTI, sending the ball in the BJP's court.

He attacked the party leadership, saying, "BJP has been taken over by elements who have never respected the party's ideology."

Jaswant also slammed party president Rajnath Singh's remarks that his services would be utilised appropriately.

"I am not a piece of furniture. The choice of the adjective 'adjust' itself is indicative of the mentality behind it," Jaswant said.

He, however, said he would not switch loyalties and join the Congress amid speculation that some Congress leaders from Delhi were in touch with him.

"I was born and brought up in BJP and never thought of joining any other party."

Jaswant's decision to fight as as Independent has raised questions whether his son Manvendra Singh, an MLA in the Raje government, will to follow in his footsteps.

Manvendra, who skipped a meeting of legislators called by Raje, though had dismissed the reports suggesting he had conveyed to the party his displeasure over the treatment meted out to his father.

"I told the party that I am stressed out and need some rest," he said.

Manvendra's secretary, Ram Singh, said doctors had advised him a month's bed rest.

Singh was a senior minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government in which he held important portfolios of external affairs, defence and finance.

For full coverage on Elections 2014, click here.

First Published: Mar 24, 2014 12:48 IST