The value of speaking up

BJP’s leadership triumvirate agreed that Jaswant Singh is voice of dissent in a BJP that should speak with one...

Jyoti Malhotra March 25, 2014
The writer is an independent journalist based in New Delhi, India

Jaswant Singh certainly isn’t afraid to rage against the dying of the light. The man, who was once expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for writing a book that supposedly praised Mohammed Ali Jinnah and criticised his fellow Indians for “demonising” him, has now decided that his last political battle will take place on the soil that gave birth to him, in and around Jasol village in the parliamentary constituency of Barmer, in Rajasthan.

Hinglaj mata ki jai! With that ringing battle cry, which is part-endorsement and part-plea to the reigning mother goddess in that part of the world, whose temple and shaktipeeth is actually in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Jaswant Singh concluded his speech on March 24 in front of a few thousand people in Barmer. The half an hour that preceded it transfixed India, not only for the political theatre that it afforded, but also because it offered life lessons about honour and the importance of keeping one’s word. On the other side of the coin, lie betrayal and disrespect.

When you’re 76-year-old and through your boyhood and adulthood have had a penchant for history, you know that history has a penchant for repeating itself. The poison-tipped caress of the lily is as fatal as the stab in the back. Throughout history, those on the side of the good have been dishonoured, disrobed and betrayed in public — and nobody has come out in their defence. And then, as the seasons turn and the winds change, and victory becomes much more important than right and wrong, good and bad, the waters slowly become muddied and unclear, and people begin to dissemble about the colour of the unvarnished truth.

So here it is: Jaswant Singh was expelled by his party in 2009 because he wrote a book called Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence. He has now been expelled again for daring to file his nomination papers from Barmer against the official BJP candidate in the coming general elections, charging party President Rajnath Singh and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje — whom, he said, he had in 2003 exhorted then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to give the top job in Rajasthan — with plotting to politically eliminate him. In 2009, Jaswant Singh had said: “The day we start banning books, we are banning thinking.” In the five years that have since lapsed, liberal Indians have capitulated with surprising ease to the puppy dog noises of supposed hardliners. The house that our mothers and fathers built so painstakingly eons ago has been eroded, little by little, but we didn’t see it coming.

The truth is that the wily Rajnath is already anticipating the desires of his great leader and prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. The BJP’s leadership triumvirate — Modi, Arun Jaitely and Rajnath — agreed that Jaswant Singh is the voice of dissent in a BJP that should speak with one voice when it comes to power on May 16, 2014. Stifling Jaswant Singh was not an option, so better deny him a ticket. Not seen, not heard, that would be the best solution of all for all those who dared to think differently.

Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader, who went public with her disgust over the induction of tainted Karnataka leader B Sriramulu, was quoted in The Economic Times recently: “The party increasingly appears to be ruthless. The principles and values that the BJP once stood for have been abandoned. Senior leaders are made to grovel to get their due.”

Swaraj was, of course, referring to BJP patriarch LK Advani, who is being forced to contest from Gandhinagar in Gujarat because he will have to then rely on Modi to take him to the Lok Sabha. As for Jaswant Singh, the BJP clearly hoped that he would become one of his favourite Shakespearean characters, perhaps King Lear, and retreat into the shadows, crying out with desperation, too old and too frail to rage against the dying of the light. Surely, they will be disappointed. Whether he wins or loses his last election, Jaswant Singh will forever remind his former party, as well as the rest of his compatriots that the value of speaking up is far more important than winning or losing.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2014.

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Sridhar | 9 years ago | Reply

Jaswant Sigh is very erudite,suave man who is one of the best orators (in English) in BJP. The series of talks with Americans after India exploded nuclear bomb (called Talbott Jaswant Singh talks) ensured that India's position was understood by US. Unfortunately, JS has outlived his utility. He has not groomed a constituency, otherwise he does not need to depend on BJP to give hime a ticket. It is time he retired and devoted his time to writing books, something he is good at.

Gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply

So Ma'm who in Congress dare defy Rahulji even as he tears up an ordinance that the cabinet. Ommittee had approved? What about AIADMK and Jayalalita? Trinamool Congress and Mamata? Sp and Mulayam Singh. BSP and MayawTi?

Jaswant Singh who had fought the last election from Darjeeling suddenly wanted to fight from Barmer in Rajastan and when denied due to his well known differences wirh Vasundhara Raje Scindia who swept into power in Rajasthan with a mssive mandate decides to speak? What value does this self serving speech have?

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