Ten months after his expulsion from the Bharatiya Janata Party, senior leader Jaswant Singh on Thursday rejoined the party.
“BJP is in my blood,” he said about a week ago when it became almost certain that he would return to the party-fold. On Thursday, as party leaders lined up to welcome him back, he said the sense of hurt and humiliation he felt when expelled at the party's ‘chintan baithak' in Shimla was gone and he was overcome by a sense of gratitude.
Party president Nitin Gadkari, senior leader L.K. Mr. Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and chief media spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad greeted and garlanded him at the party office.
Mr. Advani said he felt a “sense of relief” now that Mr. Singh was back in the party and Mr. Gadkari praised Mr. Singh warmly, saying the party looked forward to his “marg darshan” (showing the path) in strategic and foreign affairs.
All questions related to his ouster were put behind. “The past is past,” Mr. Gadkari said. Mr. Prasad made it clear to the crowded hall of reporters they would not be allowed to ask any questions.
Mr. Singh was expelled for expressing laudatory views about Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in a biography authored by him, which the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did not find palatable.
Moreover, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi criticised him strongly, leading to leaders demanding his ouster, on the plea that his less than charitable views on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were unacceptable in Gujarat. In fact, Mr. Modi announced he had banned the book in the State. The entire Parliamentary Board unanimously decided on the expulsion.
None of the leaders present on Thursday were prepared to answer questions related to the issues that were raised then.
Ten months ago, Mr. Singh blamed Mr. Advani for not standing by him. He reminded him that he stood by Mr. Advani after he came under attack for his ‘Jinnah was secular' formulation during his visit to Pakistan in 2005, but the compliment was not returned when he came under attack.
Mr. Singh said on Thursday that when Mr. Advani telephoned him to ask him whether he would meet him, the earlier feelings of hurt and humiliation were gone. Instead, he felt the sense of Mr. Advani's “generosity” in wanting to see him. “Will you treat this chapter as closed,” Mr. Advani asked him when they met.
Mr. Singh also expressed his gratitude to Mr. Gadkari, who telephoned him “within weeks” of taking charge as party president, saying he wanted his blessings. In the last few days he met him and talked to him for two hours. “He gave me respect and honour (mujhe izzat aur adar diya).” The decision was to let bygones be bygones.
Mr. Singh said 44 years ago, he left the Army to join politics as he felt the policies of the Congress were not right. He continued to hold that view and would like to strengthen the BJP, the second most important pole in the Indian polity.