Monday, August 24, 2009

Jaswant Singh: The Misfit

Jaswant Singh was born on 3 January 1938  to Late Thakur Sardar Singhji & Shrimati Kunwar Baisa, in Jasol village in Rajasthan's Barmer district formerly a part of the princely state of Jodhpur.

Mr. Singh studied at the Mayo College, Ajmer and was first batch at the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla. In 1957, he was commissioned to the Central India Horse Armoured Regiment(21st King George V's Own Horse) where he achieved the rank of Major. In Army,  he found it difficult to adjusting to grueling life in Army. In his book, A Call to Honour - In service of Emergent India he describes the Army training  to be exaggerated, needlessly loud and overbearing and which is a daily assault on his  sensibilities, and  free spirit.

It was all clearly so exaggerated, needlessly loud and overbearing, and especially concentrated too, so as to break us in quickly. And for most, that breaking-in was permanent. As I tried to cope with the daily assault on my sensibilities, and upon my incurably free spirit, this ‘understanding’ helped me arrive at just the appropriate response: ‘I must preserve myself and not sink into the anonymity of totally submissive obedience.

Spoken like a True blooded ruler who is used to giving orders(Hukums) to lesser mortals & not taking one. It was not long  before he realised that Army is not his cup of team.

I already knew, had perhaps always known, that I was not going to be in the army for good.

He left Army on 22 November 1966 within just nine years of short service. His official reason for resigning was “to join politics” however there are some who say he premature retirement in 1966 to help the maharaja of Jodhpur manage the royal household. A wise career decision I guess…

What ever may be the reason, he did join politics. His political antipathy for the Congress and particularly for Sardar Patel could have been due to his royal connection. In 1947, Patel had used tact and pressure on the princely states to merge with India. Patel has always been seen negatively by the maharajas and their families.

One would have expected him to join Jan Sangh, founded by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951  but he fought the election on the Swatantra Party ticket in 1967; the Congress candidate defeated him. For the unaware, Pt. Nehru captured the essence of Swantrata Party when he described it as “the rich man's party” backed by princely rulers and industrialists and opposed to Nehruvian socialism.  In 1971, Swatantra Party secured only 8 seats in the Lok Sabha and after Rajaji's death in 1972, it declined rapidly. The Swatantra experiment ended in 1974 by merging with Bharatiya Kranti Dal led by Charan Singh.

In 1980, He became one of founding members of BJP. However just like in Army even in BJP he was a misfit. He did not believe in the ideology of BJP's or its parent, the RSS. He even maintained his distance from the RSS and its thinking. It is well known he  never joined the Ram temple movement or other such explosive political events.  At best his opportunistic association with BJP can be termed as Marriage of convenience. 

In BJP, he enjoyed the best opportunities that the BJP had to offer, but he was never a mass leader; he was never a popular figure with whom party cadres identified with. He was just a political lightweight who enjoyed power. In fact even, the research of his book was made possible also because of the stature he enjoyed during five years as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Even while being a senior party leader occupying important positions inparty and parliament, Jaswant Singh embarrassed BJP on several occasions. 

In July 2006, Singh released a book titled A Call to Honour: In Service of Emergent India.A controversy erupted immediately after the release of the book, in which Singh insinuated that a mole had existed in the Prime Ministerial Office during the tenure of Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, who had leaked information to American sources. Soon after, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh challenged him to name the mole. In response, Singh sent a letter to him. The letter, Singh said later, had no signature, and no name of any mole. Jaswant Singh then backed off, saying his views on the subject were based on a "hunch".

It was high time BJP got rid of Misfits…

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