A new controversy brewing in the BJP has been code-named Kandahar II by party leaders. For, yet again it revolves round the allegation that Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani was being short on truth when he suggested that he, at the Shimla conclave, was against the expulsion of Jaswant Singh from the party.
Was the decision of the BJP parliamentary board meeting in Shimla on August 19 unanimous, as stated by party president Rajnath Singh then? Or did Mr. Advani speak against it?
One member of the parliamentary board categorically said Mr. Advani “did not utter a word when the decision was taken unanimously. In fact, giving the valedictory address on August 21, he described the decision to expel a colleague of 30 years standing as painful ‘but necessary’— a reference to the publication of Mr. Jaswant Singh's biography on Jinnah.”
Top leaders, who began arriving for the BJP central election committee meeting here on Saturday, had this to say when they were asked whether the expulsion decision was unanimous or Mr. Advani spoke against it: Anant Kumar, member-secretary of the board that took the decision, said “all decisions of the parliament board are always unanimous as it was that day [when Mr. Jaswant Singh was expelled].”
The same question was put to senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. His reply: “Party president has already said the decision was unanimous.”
As Mr. Advani arrived, he was also asked this question. His response: “I was asked a question [by the reporter who quoted him as saying he was opposed to the expulsion decision]. I said what Sudheendra Kulkarni [his former aide] has said in his column is correct.”
In his column on September 13, Mr. Kulkarni said Mr. Advani “has chosen to remain silent on Kandahar, the cash-for-votes episode and his own stand on Jaswant Singh's expulsion at the parliamentary board meeting in Shimla …” The suggestion obviously was that Mr. Advani was bearing the cross for that “bizarre blunder” silently although he had disagreed.
The code-name 'Kandahar II' has been given to the episode by several party leaders, who said that once again Mr. Advani was in danger of being exposed as he was on his claim that he was not aware of the NDA government's decision to send External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar in the company of three jailed terrorists who were freed to secure the release of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in December 1999.
On the Kandahar episode, several key members of the then Cabinet Committee on Security -- Brajesh Mishra, George Fernandes, Mr. Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha -- have contradicted Mr. Advani and made it plain that all decisions were taken by the CCS, of which Mr. Advani was a member as Home Minister, and he was present at those meetings.
Now on Kandahar II, not one member of the BJP parliamentary board is willing to say Mr. Advani disagreed with or opposed the decision to expel Mr. Singh. That meeting lasted five minutes. The attack on Mr. Singh, by all accounts, was led by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (ahead of the board meeting) and by Anant Kumar and Vinay Katiyar at the meeting.
Immediately afterwards, the expulsion decision was conveyed to Mr. Jaswant Singh and Mr. Rajnath Singh announced the “unanimous decision” to the media.