The harder BJP tries to brush the Khandhar episode under the carpet permanently, the more severe it becomes. Jaswant Singh, the fall guy of Khandahar, continues to embarrass both BJP and Advani, when he revealed to Burkha Dutt in an interview on NDTV that he covered for Advani on Khandahar. The denial by Advani that he did not know about Khandahar was a lie, both in public and in his book “My life My country”. Jaswant Singh further revealed that he was pained to hear that Advani denied the truth. When he met Advani and asked what he should say about Khandahar. Advani paused for some moments, shrugged his shoulders and told Jaswant to say what ever he wants.
At that point Jaswant did not reveal the Khandhar episode and he kept quiet for 15 days, covering for Advani even during the elections. He did not regret that, as it was a part of the election campaign. He virtually became the symbol of Khandahar, in which 3 dreaded terrorists were echanged for the lives of 166 people. Jaswant revealed that to go to Khandahar was a cabinet decision and Advani was present at the meeting. It was really an irony that nobody could be released from the prison without an order from the Home Minister, Advani. The operation rescued 166 persons from the jaws of death, but Advani said in person, and in his book that he knew nothing about it.
Jaswant Singh pointed out the hijacked aircraft was parked at Amritsar airport for 45 minutes before it was allowed to leave for Khandahar. Once it left Amritsar, the game was lost. The lives of 166 people were at stake. The general consensus in the country at that time was that the exchange of three hardcore terrorists should not be done. Even in the cabinet meeting at that time there was a general perception that this could be avoided. But then a collective decision was taken and Jaswant became the fall guy.
The ideas was that Advani would maintain his silence and let others speak on the matter. Apparently Vajpayee wanted action against Modi for his role in the post-Godhra riots before the Goa Executive Meeting, but Advani stood against it.
Political commentators say there is a serious leadership crisis in the BJP. The central leadership is weak, state leadership is very strong but they are fighting among themselves vying for a post at the centre. Rajnath Singh seems to have the habit of reducing the party to the lowest denominator. He has one foot outside the door, while maintaining that Advani would continue in his position.
The BJP has a habit of postponing things. After the poll, they first decided to introspect the causes of defeat, but after three days in Shimla, they said they would instead discuss a road map for the future and announce it in October. Not examining the causes of the defeat will prevent them from repeating the same mistakes. It is really a confused party unable to chalk out its own independent course and issue a clear cut message. The only outcome of the Chintan Baithak was the expulsion of Jaswant Singh and that will cost them dearly.
Interviewed by Burkha Dutt of NDTV, Jaswant Singh said the BJP has an ideology crisis. They exploit ‘Hindu’ and great Hindu thoughts and philosophy, but the party has no clear cut idea for future since it does not have a clear ideology. They have coined the word “Hindutva” without understanding its real meaning. Jaswant Singh said he did not know its meaning.
He suggested Gujarat would continue to weigh the party down. Vajpayee wanted to discuss Gujarat at the Goa Executive meeting or otherwise at Goa, Vajpayee said “Bawal ghada hojayega”. Atal Vajpaee wanted action against Modi but he could not. He believed that what happened in Gujarat was not at all acceptable but Advani stopped action against Modi.
Jaswant Singh said if the BJP wanted to be a political party, there should be a collective responsibility and accountability. He may continue to torment and embarrass the BJP in the days to come with more revelations and party secrets because he was there in the party since its inception.
Although Advani said Jaswant Singh’s expulsion was necessary though unfortunate, the general feeling is that they have made a great mistake which they will regret.
If BJP is to wriggle out of this situation, it has to come out of denial mode. It should spell out how it is going to reach out to the minorities in general and Muslims in particular. Jai Hind.