BJP's Uttar Pradesh in-charge and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's close aide, Amit Shah, remained unflappable when asked about party elder Jaswant Singh filing his nomination as an independent from the Barmer Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan. Shah said in a dismissive tone that the BJP is a winning party and that is the reason there is much demand for party tickets.
Earlier on Monday afternoon, party vice president Mukthar Abbas Naqvi was more diplomatic. He said Jaswant Singh belonged to the party, and the parting of ways does not negate his services to the party. A similar sentiment was expressed by party president Rajnath Singh's political secretary Sudhanshu Trivedi on Saturday. He too had emphasised that Jaswant's valuable past with the party will remain untarnished.
Earlier on Monday, Jaswant Singh accused Rajnath and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje of "betraying" him by not fielding him from the Barmer Lok Sabha constituency, which he will now contest as an independent.
Saying that it was he who had recommended Raje for the chief minister's post and Rajnath as the BJP president, Jaswant said here after filing his nomination papers, "They have betrayed me."
Retorting to Arun Jatiley's advice that he should abide by the party decision and learn to accept a 'no', Jaswant said that he would not listen to preaching from Jaitley. Jaswant said the new regime reminded
him of the days of the 1975 Emergency that Indira Gandhi had imposed.
The official party line, however, is not to accept that the party leadership has been insensitive in dealing with senior leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi or Jaswant. The party spokespersons say that the fact that Advani had conceded to contest from Gandhinagar is an indication that there was no trouble in the matter. Likewise, that Joshi did not resist being moved from Varanasi, to make way for PM candidate Narendra Modi, to Kanpur, again indicated that there was no problem in the first place. In fact, Advani was nearly coerced into abiding by the party decision that he should contest from Gandhinagar, and an unhappy Joshi was made to swallow the bitter pill of being moved out of Varanasi to pave the way for Modi.
There was no possibility of explaining Jaswant's dissonant note because he went ahead and filed his nomination as an independent, which pits him against the party's nominee and Congress defector Sonaram Choudhary, a Jat, who is supposed to have an electoral advantage because of the Jat majority in the constituency.
—(With agency inputs)