The expelled Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Jaswant Singh, on Thursday lashed out at his former party for its so-called “core belief,” questioning its fondness for India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel; he reminded the BJP that it was Patel who banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh soon after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
Even as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, in Shimla, attacked Mr. Singh for writing and expounding views on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Iron Man Patel that went against the party’s “core beliefs,” set out in a party resolution dated June 10, 2005 (adopted in the wake of L.K. Advani’s ‘Jinnah is secular’ formulation during a visit to Pakistan), Mr. Singh met him swiftly in a long-distance verbal duel: point against counter-point, argument against counter-argument.
Mr. Singh was especially critical of the Gujarat government’s ban on his book Jinnah: India-Partition- Independence, which reappraises the roles played by Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel in Partition. “You stop people from thinking, you ban books … politics will become hollow ... you will be trapped in a dark alley.”
He said: “I don’t know which part of the belief in Patel I have demolished. It was Patel who banned the RSS. What is this core belief about? There are only eight references to Patel in my book. The book was launched on Monday evening and I was expelled on Wednesday morning. BJP leaders must have done some very rapid reading.”
Mr. Singh said he had twice put off the book’s launch on the request of the party. Party leaders and those in the RSS knew he was writing the book.
In the morning, Mr. Jaitley said: “No political party can allow any member, let alone a frontline leader, to write or express views against the core ideology of the party. If any member wants to say something or express his views against the party’s ideology, he should stand outside the party” and then have his say. It was not a question of writing “a book” but writing a book that went against the basic beliefs of the party.
Mr. Jaitley referred to the June 10, 2005 party resolution rejecting the two-nation theory championed by Jinnah and said it led to a communal agitation in which thousands of innocent people lost their lives. Mr. Jaitley said Mr. Singh was bound by that resolution and could not and should not have gone against it.
However, in the evening, Mr. Singh dismissed what he described as a “lawyer’s contention.” “I don’t have to explain my conduct… I never subscribed to that resolution, which was not a resolution but a statement.” At that time, he took a stand against the treatment meted out to Mr. Advani (who was forced to quit as party president). “I stood up for Advaniji’s right to say what he did.”
Was he saddened that Mr. Advani and his supporters in the party’s Parliamentary Board had not stood by him? Mr. Jaswant’s answer was: “No. My grandfather had told me never remember a favour you have done and never forget a favour done to you.”