Tragic End to Vajpayee’s ‘Hanuman’ and Rajnath’s ‘Ravan’ – End of Vajpayee

Nervous BJP Expelled Jaswant Singh for His Book on Jinnah

In a clear display of double standards, the BJP today expelled Jaswant Singh from the primary membership of the party for glorifying Jinnah, blaming Nehru and Patel for the partition of the country in his book “Jinnah: India, partition, independence” while no action was taken against LK Advani for the same sin of glorifying Jinnah as Secular while on a visit to Pakistan, as a President of India’s principal opposition party.

In another case, Vasundara Raje continues to defy the directive of Party President Rajnath Singh to step down as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, holding her responsible for the pary’s pathetic performance both in Assembly and parliamentary elections, where BJP got a drubbing.

Yet no action has been taken against her because 60 of her MLAs and MP supporters descended on Delhi to express support for her leadership. Yashwant Singh and Arun Shourie were earlier dissidents who tore into the party leadership on accountability. Yet they faced no such expulsion. This is the party with a ‘difference’ treating differently in a clear display of ‘different strokes for different people’.

Jaswant Singh’s expulsion was expected but the speed and manner with which it was done was questionable. This happened just two days after the release of his book in Delhi with the full knowledge of top brass of the party including its President. It is not as if Jaswant Singh kept his Book secret. He has been writing this book for two years, and he made no secret of it.

As a matter of fact, the launching of the Book was delayed on the request of the Party President. Jaswant Singh was asked to wait first until the Assembly elections were over and then Parliamentary elections. It was on his request that the party’s Chintan Baitak was fixed on 19th, as Jaswant expressed his inability to attend the meeting if it coincides with the launch of his Book.

Again, much before the Book was launched or released, Jaswant Singh, spoke about Jinnah and his Book in an interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV. What were the BJP leadership doing then? They were all hearing him and they knew what was to come. If they were so irked by his remarks, they could have cautioned him then, or issued a show cause notice. This was not done. Why? Were they waiting for the launch of his Book to humiliate him in public. This is pathetic treatment for a senior member of a party, who was till the other day called “Hanuman” and now he has become “Ravan”. This is no democracy in the political party.

It may be recalled that Jaswant Singh shot a letter to Rajnath Singh soon after the poll debacle, questioning the reward to those responsible for the defeat of the party. It was a clear pointer at both Arun Jaitely, who was made the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and LK Advani, who was made the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha. He questioned the system of accountability and raised many such questions on the functioning of the party much to the discomfort of the Party President and others as well.

He thus joined a long list of dissidents in the party along with other Senior pros like Yaswanth Sinha and Arun Shourie, who were much harsher in their opposition to LK Advani and Arun Jaitely. No action has been taken against them. Then why action against Jaswant now? Did the party take action to deflect the party’s inability to tackle an intra-party feud or to appease Mohan Bhagwat, RSS chief who wanted action against dissidents, when he said “it is too much” of the inner fight?

It was unfortunate that a senior leader of the party could be expelled in this fashion today. He was told of the expulsion by the party by Party’s President Rajnath Singh over the phone. What was the urgency to convey such a harsh decision to a senior leader of the party without observing the basic courtesy of informing him of the expulsion in person. That was probably highly painful to Jaswant Singh, more so than the expulsion itself. He was sad he was expelled for writing a book.

Many commentators and political analysts both from the party and outside condemned the action against him. His views about Jinnah and partition were historical. If anyone has a different opinion, they are free to counter him. It was a Book of hard research and academic interest.

It appears that a decision was taken already in Delhi but it was announced in Simla in the Chintan Baitak. Party President Rajnath and Advani knew very well that Jaswant was coming to Simla. If the mood in the party was so severe, both of them could have asked him to stay back in Delhi itself or having come they should have gone in person and conveyed the expulsion decision in person. That basic courtesy was not observed, and made things worse for him. He rightly said it was a sad day in his life. That a man who was one of the leaders of the party since its inception, had to be sent packing after serving the party for 30 long years, was indeed painful and sad.

Jaswant Singh soon after expulsion gave a press conference. “After 30 years, I’ve been sacked over a book.” He tried to stay stoic, but Jaswant Singh broke down more than once while addressing the Press in Shimla. But maintained, he would not appeal against expulsion and said he accepted the party’s decision. He also wished the party all the luck. What will follow in the next few days, it is hard to say. But all indications are that the party has flexed its muscles to deal with dissidents in the party. How many more heads will roll in the next few days, will be watched with interest.

Lord Meghnad Desai, noted economist and professor emeritus of the London School of Economics, Wednesday hit out at the BJP for expelling Jaswant Singh, saying “it was a bad move” and the party had made a “fool of itself”. Swapan Das Gupta, BJP member and noted journalist, said expelling a leader of the calibre of Jaswant for writing a Book of academic interest, is pathetic. Others spoke of the nervousness of the party. They called it double standard for not taking action for similar remarks made by Advani in 2005 in Pakistan.

Incidentally, this is the only party in the country, whose President is the figure head, whose writ does not operate in any state unit, if the Vasundhara Raje case is any indication. He had issued a directive to Raje to step down, but she kept on defying. Still he is unable to force his decision. When Vajpayee was around, the entire party revolved around two persons, viz., Vajpayee and Advani and the party president was only a figure head. Think of Krishnamorthy, laxman and others as Party Presidents and how they could have prevailed over such top leaders like Advani and Vajpayee. In the case of the Congress party, a word from the President of the party was treated as a virtual order and obeyed instantly. This is the principal difference between Congress Party and BJP, a party with a ‘difference’.

Jaswant Siingh displayed a rare courage when he took on RSS and BJP alike head on. In an interview to various news channels and also during the press conference following his expulsion, he was harsh on the functioning of inner democracy in both organisations.

Jaswant tore into RSS and said both BJP and RSS should do introspection about their organisations. On RSS, he said people seem to be comfortable with conveniences. RSS was touched by the poison of office. The term RSS ‘Parcharaks” has become ‘Suvidhabogi’ meaning the workers became addicted to convenience. He said he was never a member of RSS or Jana Sangh but both organisations supported him in his earlier days in the party. He regretted his expulsion but never wishes to appeal against it, as enough damage had been done to him.

What was the reason behind Jaswant’s expulsion? His remarks on Jinnah, Nehru and Patel were only an excuse. This was the question haunting commentators in many news channels. Some said it was a “master stroke” by the party leadership. Some said it was RSS diktat. But questioned why Jaswant Singh alone, why not Sinha or Shourie or Raje for that matter? They were all dissidents. Some said it was a killer truth about Jinnah that consumed Jaswant Singh.

In any case, Jaswant’s expulsion marked the end of “Vajpayee era” in the party and with it the end of “moderate-ism” in the BJP.

Jaswant, the fall guy might have lost a few friends in the BJP but he won more friends among Muslims. He has touched the hearts of millions of Muslims in the country and outside. For the first time in the history of the country, a leader as big as Jaswant hailing from a party more antagonist to Muslim, truly spoke the language about Muslims, that others dare not. His expressions like “Every Muslim in India is a loyal Indian”, “look into the eyes of Muslims and feel the pain”, “Muslims paid the price for partition”, Muslims “psychological nervousness” and India treated them as “Aliens” and finally “BJP totally misunderstood Muslims” go a long way in bridging the gap. He has possibly become a leader of Muslims overnight.

Jaswant Siingh today is much taller than he was yesterday. Not because he loved Jinnah and called him the greatest leader and condemned both Nehru and Patel but because he spoke the language that touched the hearts of millions of Muslims in the country. If he wishes to lead them, the Muslims today may be willing to follow him like the proverbial “pied piper”.

Ironically, the Book for which he was expelled ran to 600 pages but read by none in the BJP. Gujarat has already banned the Book and it would be followed by many BJP ruled States.

This is a poor display of statesmanship by the BJP leadership. Pathetic indeed. All our sympathies are with Jaswant Singh. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha
A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.