March 29: The BJP tonight expelled Jaswant Singh for six years after the rebel leader refused to opt out of the race from home turf Barmer as the last date for withdrawing nominations came and went.
Sources said the party had invoked a provision under which a member can be expelled either for contesting an election against an official nominee or for challenging a party decision in a court of law.
“Jaswant Singh has exhausted all constitutional options available to the party by deciding not to withdraw from the contest,” PTI quoted a senior BJP leader as saying.
This is the second time Jaswant has been expelled since he was thrown out in 2009 following his controversial book on M.A. Jinnah. He was later taken back.
The stage is now set for a bruising prestige battle in the Rajasthan constituency where the former Union minister, who has filed papers as an Independent, faces Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, the BJP’s official nominee, and the Congress’s Harish Choudhary. Sonaram, chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s choice, is a recent import from the Congress.
BJP sources said the party had waited the whole day for Jaswant to withdraw from the April 17 contest amid speculation that senior leaders were in touch with the veteran. But the 76-year-old former Union minister, who handled key departments like finance and external affairs when the NDA was in power, denied being approached.
“No senior leader of the BJP has contacted me on this issue (withdrawal of nomination). I am not going to withdraw,” he had said earlier in the day in Jaisalmer, which falls under the Barmer Lok Sabha constituency.
Jaswant’s daughter-in-law Chitra Singh today inaugurated his election office in Barmer. Son Manvendra Singh, a BJP MLA from Sheo in Barmer, has been keeping a low profile since his father decided to strike out on his own after being refused a nomination from his home district.
BJP sources said Raje, for whom it has become a prestige battle, has toured Barmer twice in the past few days to nip any possible dissidence and ensure that all local leaders supported Sonaram.
The chief minister visited Barmer yesterday and condoled the death of senior Jat BJP leader Gangaram Choudhary and also prayed at some of the religious places Jaswant had visited a few days back.
Jats account for 3.5 lakh of the 16 lakh voters in the constituency that also has a substantial presence of Rajput, Muslim, Dalit and tribal voters.
The BJP and the Congress have both fielded Jats but Jaswant, a Rajput from Jasol in Barmer district, is popular with the other communities that include Muslims and Sindhis. Rajputs account for some two lakh votes in the seat.