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Jaswant rules out return, not support

New Delhi, May 2: Expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh today ruled out joining a BJP-led NDA government even if invited back to the fold, saying Narendra Modi’s cabinet would not be like Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s.

“Whether the NDA comes to power or not, I have no difficulty in saying, no, I will not join them,” said Jaswant, expelled after he filed his nomination as an Independent on being denied a BJP ticket from Barmer in Rajasthan.

Jaswant said he had the “benefit of working with a team led by Vajpayee” and the “rare honour” of simultaneously handling the defence and external affairs portfolios. “I can scarcely expect life to give me a second chance,” Jaswant told reporters at a news conference here.

He did not name BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi but said he did not expect the same atmosphere in the new PMO if the NDA won power. “Vajpayeeji had confidence in his cabinet, I do not see that happening with new NDA. I’d much rather be independent.”

Jaswant, however, appeared to keep his options open when he did not rule out supporting the NDA in Parliament if he won. He said he would give issue-based support.

“I didn't say I will not support, I said I will not join the NDA. My supporting (the NDA) will depend entirely on issues involved...and the questions posed in Parliament. There will be occasions when I will support the NDA on issues ...and if there is a third front which comes up or the Congress party and I find greater national good, I will certainly support them,” Jaswant in response to a question.

Asked what kind of Prime Minister Modi would make, Jaswant was evasive. “Time will only tell, but I will not like to comment on individuals.”

He was less guarded when speaking about the BJP and appeared to allude to Modi when he said the party become “one-man centric”. “The BJP, not even during Vajpayee’s time, was a one-man party. Currently, it is controlled by one man and a small coterie chosen by him. That is a choice made by BJP themselves and is not a natural evolution.”

Jaswant blamed chief minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP president Rajnath Singh for denying him the Barmer ticket and took a dig at her for turning the contest into a prestige battle and using a Hindi idiom revolving around the moustache.

“I was told that chief minister Vasundhara Raje has said yeh toh meri mooch ka sawal hai (this contest is a question of my moustache). I want to ask since when did the Maharani Vasundhara get a moustache,” the BJP rebel said, referring to the chief minister’s roots as a royal scion.

Jaswant said he was “encouraged by so much attention”, pointing out that Vasundhara had campaigned thrice in Barmer, Modi held a rally and around 18 state ministers were deployed in the constituency.

He described as “gross injustice” the BJP’s suspension of his son Manvendra, a Rajasthan MLA. “This is an act of gross injustice, I say this not only because he is my son, he had defeated (in the Assembly polls late last year) this very colonel (Sona Ram, the official BJP Lok Sabha candidate) by a margin of two lakh votes.”

Jaswant, who fought his first poll in 1967 and has been part of 12 general elections, dubbed the current contest the most challenging but bemoaned the rancorous campaign. “Political parties have lost their moral compass, rhetoric has replaced logic and level of political discourse within and outside the parties is at its lowest abyss.”