Defending Jaswant

I’m a Congress person. Have always been as far back as I can remember, and yet it’s true that the congress has a long way to go before it can be the party that I would unreservedly support.The Congress is far from perfect:- conspicuous errors in policy, rampant evidence of corruption by party members, a tendency to play to the galleries by even the highest level of leadership, an irritatingly continuing dependence on the Gandhi family to provide incumbents to the top post of the party, etc.the list goes on and on…

In recent times the alternative has been BJP, a party that I would not normally subscribe to simply because it’s roots lie in a jingoistic pro Hindu agenda that stands contrary to the very fibre of Hinduism as I understand it. Also because it roots lie in an organisation (RSS) that draws its inspiration from Hitler and the National Socialist Party.
[aside]One of my closest friends happens to be the great grandson of one of the key founding leaders of the Sangh. I have all respect for the positive contributions the RSS has made to many communities. But I’ll be excused for my decided opinion that the RSS’s ideological underpinnings are fatally flawed and that, in general, it’s not a club that I’d want to be part of[/aside]

We’ll return here when trying to understand what the BJP’s core ideology is all about (Going against which is what,as you’ll grant me,resulted in the expulsion of one Mr. Jaswant Singh from the BJP). And yet, again, I have to admit there are many many things about the Party, it’s leaders and its policies that one simply had to admire(forgive my use of the past tense but that is how I feel today) One of those leaders was Jaswant Singh, and another was Vajpayee ( Again forgive my use of the past tense but neither of them remains with the BJP today). Vajpayee’s historical address in Hindi at the UN general assembly remains one of the bravest and most suave assertions of India internationally that I can recall. Let’s not forget that it was the BJP again that not only had the balls to take India overtly nuclear but also the tactical wherewithal to steer India’s foreign policy excellently in the aftermath of the blasts and Pakistan’s tit-for-tat response. This was the party that had the insight to espouse “sadak-bijli-pani” and underscore the critical nature of Infrastructure and its role in the future of India’s progress. This was the party that started the Bharatiya Pravasi Divas and engaged NRIs so so so much better than any government before it.This was the party that espoused the concept of a uniform civil code and equality before law. This was a party that had plenty of young , vocal, erudite and dynamic leaders (jaitley, mahajan, shourie, swaraj, modi and many more) and no “dynasty” syndrome. Above all it had four-five towering leader figures Vajpayee, Advani,Yashwant Sinha,Jaswant Singh,M M Joshi , etc.

There were errors as well, no doubt, not for a moment am I suggesting things were perfect. There was plenty of humble pie for Vajpayee at the Kargill-aceous end to his grand peace overtures to Pakistan or for that matter the hastily concluded Agra summit with pencil-mustache. To my mind the signal error plaguing the BJP was an inordinately high tendency to project itself as the next US/Israel. It wanted to or tried to change 50 years of world perception that India was a soft state over night. It didn’t work out for them, or rather in hind sight I feel it couldn’t work out for them.Consequently, there was humble pie for Jaswant Singh as well at the turn of the millenium with the IC 814 hijacking. And yet, Singh remains one of the few leaders that simply ooze refinement , erudition and finesse for me. I recall his interview with Tim Sebastian on BBC (Of HardTalk fame) simply awesome!!

In short here was a party that despite its fallacious ideological base did seem to have a lot of things going right and if you were an average Indian living in the India of 2003-2004 you might have voted BJP or you might have not when the elections happened in 1998,and then again in 1999, but you sure as hell were proud of the country and not too displeased with the govt. of the day. Five years from that point of departure I am pained at how drastically different things are with the BJP of today.

On Wednseday, the BJP expelled Jaswant Singh for writing a book on Jinnah. I haven’t read the book but I have my doubts that Jaswant Singh covered any fundamentally new ground here. Basing my opinion on the one experience I have of his authorship I would definitely want to read this book. But the question I really haven’t found an answer to is – exactly which core ideology of the BJP has he violated? According to Jaitley, he has transgressed the avowed stance of the BJP that Jinnah was the originator of the two nation policy. My question is – is the core ideology the BJP to oppose the Two nation theory ( which all said and done is not really a matter of choice now 60 years after the partition)or to insist on who originated it? If the latter,then Jaswant Singh’s claims in the book seem to be good stuff for the party to build on rather than shun. ( I mean, really, if you can blame the partition on the Congress that’s not all bad politically)

I’m not saying that what he has written is right or wrong, just that it shouldn’t have resulted in his expulsion. There are two reasons for this – the first being that when similar statements were made by L.K. Advani after the initial clamour and his subsequent offer to quit as party president, things just tamely died on that issue. So why are things so different now, that a senior leader of the party is pointedly informed of his expulsion without so much as being offered a chance to explain himself. The other reason is that, if I have correctly digested the gist of what his book seems to imply about Jinnah and Patel-Nehru, then, the premise of his writing is actually a good ideological bolstering for the BJP a new plank / angle against the congress that the BJP sorely needs, given its dismal performance at the last hustings!

On whether what he is saying is historical fact interpreted with adequate judgement or not is something that I can only comment on after reading his book ( sitting here in francophone Africa, it must needs await my trip to India, I think, before that happens) but I have read one book by Jaswant Singh, a book titled “Defending India” and I was seriously impressed by the book.
[aside] To my delight I have read a personally signed hard copy of the book.The inscription signed by Jaswant Singh reads “To my Guruji” and is addressed to my late Grand Father who was his professor when he was a cadet at NDA Khadakvasla [/aside]

I just feel that it’s a sad sad day for the BJP and that they’ve alienated a few erstwhile fans & followers with their arbitrary behaviour these past couple of years.I hope that they get a grip on themselves,because all said and done, the BJP has played an important role in shaping India’s polity and gearing it for this century. Here’s hoping they manage to salvage their relevance going forward…

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