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‘Pained’ Rajnath plays peacemaker

- Pathak mollified, party chief expected to reach out to Jaswant
Jaswant Singh and (right) Rajnath Singh

New Delhi, March 25: Rajnath Singh has stepped in as the BJP’s peacemaker to try and quell pockets of rebellion that have erupted in the party after the selection of Lok Sabha candidates.

Jaswant Singh’s rebellion, followed by that of Bihar old-timer Lal Muni Choubey, and the allegation of two old hands in Gujarat, Harin Pathak and Rajendrasinh Rana, that they were passed over because Narendra Modi did not want them, had chipped away at the “gains” from Modi’s initial blitzkrieg, some in the BJP believe.

“People will rightly conclude our leaders are constantly at loggerheads and incapable of running a government at the Centre,” a source said.

The BJP president today asked Pathak, a seven-time MP from Ahmedabad East who has been replaced by Modi’s favourite actor Paresh Rawal, over. Following the interaction, Pathak, who has been at loggerheads with Modi for years, said he did not intend leaving the party.

Rana, a five-term Bhavnagar MP who too has been denied a ticket, said he was “expecting this result” because he had put up Modi’s long-time bÍte noire, Sanjay Joshi, at his Delhi residence. “I knew I would be victimised. But Sanjay Joshi is my friend. I am a BJP worker and won’t think of contesting as an Independent,” he said.

Rajnath is now expected to reach out to Jaswant, who has filed his nomination as an Independent and try to persuade him to opt out. The last date for withdrawal is March 29.

In an interview to Times Now, the BJP president said he was “pained” that Jaswant did not get the ticket from Barmer, his old constituency. “Extraordinary decisions are taken in extraordinary situations. Even while desiring from the depth of our hearts, it was not possible for us to give a ticket to Jaswant Singhji from Barmer,” he said.

Earlier, Rajnath’s remark that the party could have “adjusted” Jaswant in some other position had angered the veteran leader who had retorted that he was “not a piece of furniture” to be fitted in somewhere.

In what appeared to be a response to colleague Sushma Swaraj’s claim that the decision on Jaswant was not taken by the central election committee, Rajnath today said: “The Rajasthan issue was discussed in the committee, all seats were discussed in the committee.”

But suggestions that he could try to placate Jaswant have left some sections of the party seething, with leaders questioning why the BJP should swallow such rebellion.

At a news meet to release the BJP “anthem” for the elections, Arun Jaitley was asked if the party would take action against Jaswant’s son and Rajasthan MLA, Manvendra Singh, who had skipped a legislature party meeting chief minister Vasundhara Raje had called to discuss Jaswant’s rebellion. Manvendra, who stayed away saying he was unwell, had also been quoted as saying he would not vote for Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, the BJP’s candidate for Barmer, whom he had defeated in 2004.

Jaitley responded: “I personally spoke to Manvendra. I do not think there is any reason or cause for the party to take action against him because he has not done anything to attract adverse notice from the party.”

A leader recalled that although Jaswant had “blessed” Vasundhara’s anointment as chief minister in 2003, in June 2007 his wife Sheetal Kanwar had filed an FIR against the publisher of a poster that depicted Vasundhara as a goddess. The leader claimed Vasundhara was “convinced” Jaswant and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had worked in tandem to sabotage her prospects in the 2008 elections that she narrowly lost. Shekhawat died in 2010.

Before the 2013 polls, Vasundhara and Jaswant had buried their differences, after which she campaigned for Manvendra. But Jaswant was miffed when his son was not inducted as a minister, sources said.

“Vasundhara’s assessment was that Barmer had 25 per cent Jats (Sonaram’s caste) and seven per cent Rajputs (Jaswant’s caste). Her case was, fielding a Jat would have a positive effect on neighbouring constituencies. She has just delivered a stunning victory for the BJP, so there is no way we could have ignored her ground report,” a source said.