A visibly emotional Jaswant Singh said on Wednesday in Shimla that he was “saddened and pained” by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to expel him from its primary membership. He regretted the decision, adding that for 30 years he had served the party and discharged all responsibility entrusted to him.
“In a cartoon I was once depicted as Hanuman; the party is now portraying me as Ravana,” he said. “For my 30-year long association to end this way is naturally painful. I regret it,” he said at a press conference soon after BJP president Rajnath Singh conveyed to him the party’s Parliamentary Board decision of expulsion.
He said he would have quit if he had been asked to, but to be expelled in this manner had “saddened” him.
At the press conference that was televised live, Mr. Singh said he was “not even shown the courtesy of being called and the decision being conveyed personally by Advaniji or Rajnathji.” He received a telephone call from Mr. Rajnath Singh in the morning asking him not to attend the meeting as tempers were running high (on his book on Jinnah released on Monday). Later, “just before 1 p.m. Mr. Rajnath Singh telephoned again to convey to me the decision.”
He added that the party leaders should have told him in Delhi that they were going to expel him. Instead they chose to do so here, where he had come for the ‘chintan baithak’.
Asserting that he has “never been a member of the RSS,” Mr. Singh refused to answer a question whether it was time for the BJP to come out of the sangh parivar as it was “not within my jurisdiction” to comment.
Was this episode part of the succession war in the BJP? “I can’t answer that. I have lost the right to comment on the working of the party,” he said. He did add that he was grateful for the many opportunities the party had given him over the years and he had “discharged all those responsibilities to the best of my ability”.
He pointedly indicated that he “would not appeal” to the party to reconsider its decision, painful though it was to be “thrown out of the house after living in it for 30 years” during which time he saw a “change” in the party.
He obliquely referred to Mr. L.K. Advani’s ‘Jinnah is secular’ formulation during a Pakistan visit in 2005 when he charged the party with being “selective” on the issue of dissent.
“I don’t’ want to cite my personal example, but there ought not to be selectivity … some feel there is a great deal of selectivity.”
Mr. Jaswant Singh made the point that if people in India were to stop reading, writing and thinking and debating issues, the country would be that much poorer. If political parties discouraged reading, writing and thinking, they too were doomed.
“If you start questioning thought, you are entering a very dark area.” He confirmed his next work would be on Rajaji. And his “immediate next step” would be to get back to Delhi.
As for a note he had written ahead of a core committee meeting in Delhi after the party’s electoral defeat, Mr. Jaswant Singh said that earlier he was promised the issues raised on leadership would be discussed.
In his book on Jinnah he had tried to understand the change that took place between the time when he was hailed as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity and the horrific Calcutta killings. “In Pakistan they are welcoming the fact that some attempt has been made to get at the truth.”