Jaipur, March 24: A rebellious Jaswant Singh today filed his nomination from home turf Barmer as an Independent, defying the BJP and accusing the top brass of betrayal in a bitter speech that ripped into what he called the “NaMo-NaMo tamasha”.
The 76-year-old, denied a ticket by his party that has chosen to field a recent defector from the Congress, also dared the BJP to sack him, saying it was up to the leadership to decide whether to throw him out or not.
“They can sack me,” Jaswant told a media conference shortly after he had filed papers as an Independent candidate from the Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan.
The open challenge came a day after Jaswant had hit back at party chief Rajnath Singh’s assurance that he would be “adjusted”, saying he was “not a piece of furniture”.
Today, sarcasm gave way to bitter diatribe as the angry veteran launched into a scarcely veiled attack on party mascot Narendra Modi and the “decision-making process” in the BJP which, he said, smacked of the “arrogance” of the Emergency era.
“The NaMo-NaMo tamasha, the decision-making process (in the BJP) reminds me of 1975. There is more of arrogance and less of taking everyone along,” Jaswant said.
He also accused Rajnath and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje of betraying him. “I was the one who had proposed Raje’s name for chief ministership and Rajnath Singh for party presidentship but they have betrayed me. And these people have betrayed not just me but the principles of the BJP,” he said at a crowded rally that preceded the media conference.
Jaswant, however, limited his allusions to Modi to the party mascot’s sobriquet NaMo.
The former Union minister, who has handled key portfolios like foreign affairs and finance, said he had requested the party long back that since the coming elections would be his last as a contestant, he wanted to fight from Barmer, his home district.
He said he had given three alternatives, with Barmer as the first preference, and even party patriarch L.K. Advani had seconded his wishes. “(But) who was given the ticket? Not a BJP worker but somebody who joined the BJP from the Congress and had been abusing us till recently. I was very hurt,” he said.
The BJP has chosen to field Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary, who had crossed over from the Congress only a few days back.
“This isn’t my betrayal,” Jaswant, also a former army man, told the crowd. “BJP workers have been betrayed.”
He said he felt “relieved” after filing papers as an Independent, as he sought to project the battle ahead as a fight between “old and new ideologies”.
“This is a fight not for me but for the principles on which the party was set up. It is not just a betrayal against me but a kind of dictatorship in which senior and veteran leaders of the party are being humiliated,” Jaswant, who nearly broke down on Saturday while speaking to reporters in Jodhpur, told the rally at Barmer’s Adarsh Stadium.
The bitter tirade came days after Advani himself was coaxed into contesting from Gandhinagar and not from Bhopal as he had wished.
“I have taken a step for Barmer. Relief is what I am feeling right now,” Jaswant said. “I am contesting on principles and for honour, not just for my honour, but for the honour of all citizens of Barmer,” he said.
In Delhi, Amit Shah, a close aide of Modi, defended the decision not to field Jaswant. “Every decision has its pluses and minuses. All decisions have been taken after careful thought and consideration,” Shah, a BJP general secretary, told reporters, asked about the denial of ticket to Jaswant from Barmer.
Jaswant’s son Manvendra Singh, a BJP MLA from Sheo in Barmer, was not present when the former Union minister filed his nomination papers.
Manvendra, said to be unwell, refused to comment when contacted by The Telegraph. “You ask witnesses. I was not there. I am stressed out and resting at home. I can’t say anything,” he said.
In Rajasthan, the state BJP is gearing for Raje’s visit to Barmer when Sona Ram files his nomination papers tomorrow. That the chief minister is accompanying the party’s official nominee indicates she has made the contest a prestige fight.