Jaswant Expulsion: Incorrigible Advani snubs RSS
by Sandhya Jain on 20 Aug 2009 11 Comments

The unwarranted expulsion of senior leader Jaswant Singh, who would possibly have been the sole critic of the BJP’s shoddy performance in the 2009 parliamentary elections at the so-called chintan baithak, showcases LK Advani’s Stalinist control over the party and signals a direct snub and challenge to the RSS Sarsanghachalak who desires a generational change and course correction in the BJP. 

The startling ejection of the former minister after disallowing him from attending the chintan baithak has, first and foremost, politically discredited ALL persons present at the Shimla conclave and associated with the pronouncement.

Mr. Jaswant Singh’s sense of history – correct or incorrect – is irrelevant. The agenda of the chintan baithak was SOLELY the causes of BJP’s virtual rout in the 2009 polls, which introspection the party leadership was studiously evading, in the manner in which it avoided dissecting the defeat of 2004. Concern at the manner in which the party was lapsing into utter irrelevance caused fissures in the Advani camp itself, and forced the calling of the Shimla meeting when senior leaders like Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha found it difficult to simply maintain silence over the state of affairs.

Both successive defeats revolved round LK Advani’s determination to be Prime Minister; a resolve BJP buckled to, but the people of India rejected, gently in 2004, thunderously in 2009. It was the leadership and megalomaniacal style of Advani, his coterisation of the BJP and willful deviation from Hindutva that were to be thrashed out at Shimla.

That the RSS had lost patience with the politics of evasion of responsibility and politics of managing the party through selective leaks to anti-Hindu journalists, was driven home by the smartly timed interview of Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat to TIMES NOW on the eve of the chintan baithak.

In the normal course, as we shall discuss later, this should have set the tone of the meeting, which should have seen Advani & Coterie walking into the sunset. But RSS had obviously under-estimated his obduracy; he bounced back with the googly of WASTING the entire morning of the first day in discussing Jaswant Singh (who was NEVER on the agenda in the first place), and having him expelled. The reverberations have made Shimla redundant!

Jaswant Scapegoat

To the extent the BJP was embarrassed by Jaswant Singh’s magnum opus, especially in the face of taunts from Congress and the Shiv Sena, the party had already contained the damage by disassociating from the book on Tuesday itself.

First, all party leaders stayed away from the book release function, and President Rajnath Singh told the media:
The important role of MA Jinnah in the division of India, which led to a lot of dislocation and destabilisation of millions of people, is too well-known. We cannot wish away this painful part of our history.”

Singh also contradicted Jaswant’s assessment of the beloved Vallabhbhai Patel:
Sardar Patel played a historic role in the unification and consolidation of India amidst serious threats to its unity and integrity. The entire country remains indebted and proud of the profound vision, courage and leadership of Sardar Patel.”

This should have been the end of the matter. If BJP wished to do a further post-mortem of the book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence, it should have assigned senior leaders to read and critique it point by point, and then organised a separate POLITICAL COURT MARTIAL. It now transpires that the book is far more critical of Jinnah than initial reports suggest; if true, this takes the wind out of the sails of the expulsion experts!

That BJP chose to use Jinnah’s Ghost to oust a venerable leader in a very underhand manner shows a political intent to derail the chintan baithak by deflecting public attention from its main purpose, and ensuring that any residual dissent notes within are silenced. It is a safe bet that Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi and other so-called hardliners (read anti-Advani faction) kept their mouths firmly shut and went along with the political hijack, instead of insisting on the core agenda and walking out on this sheer vendetta.

With media reports that the Bal Apte Committee had effaced criticisms made by the various state units against the central campaign committee led by Arun Jaitly, the Shimla conclave was in any case expected to be a partial job. Real honest in-depth introspection was not expected.

Now Advani has forced open war on the mother organisation with which he has long been raring to break the ‘umbilical cord’ and enter into a symbiotic relationship! As of now, divorce seems the only connection left between the RSS and the BJP, unless that latter rouses itself from the thrall in which Mr. Advani holds it, pulls itself up by the bootstraps and gets back to the people.

Some points are in order. If Jaswant Singh deserved to be expelled from the BJP for writing a bad book, why was Advani not expelled after praising Muhammad Ali Jinnah while on a trip to Pakistan?

The 71-year-old Jaswant Singh, who has variously been BJP cabinet minister for defence, finance and external affairs, learnt of his expulsion around 1 p.m., by telephone, via president Rajnath Singh. Ironically, this disgraceful termination of a 30-year association with the party, without even the formality of a show cause notice, validates Jaswant Singh’s critique of Advani’s unilateral appointment of favourites as office-bearers of the Parliamentary Party when the party constitution mandated elections for the posts. It further underscores the BJP’s serious disconnect between ‘performance’ and ‘rewards,’ and Advani’s complete inability to stomach dissent of any kind.

Most tellingly, however, it highlights Advani’s inability to take responsibility when things go wrong. To cite just one example: Jaswant Singh – a man conscious of History and of his place in it, a proud Rajput to boot – swallowed a bitter pill when he agreed to the Cabinet decision to accompany three dangerous terrorists to Taliban-ruled Kandahar in exchange for hostages in December 1999.

The decision was unpopular as many believed the government had mishandled the hijacking of the airlines, but Jaswant Singh kept his side of the bargain and never tried to wriggle out of responsibility by blaming someone else. It was Advani who, weasel-like, claimed in his foolish autobiography that he was ignorant of the decision to send Jaswant Singh to Kandahar. He fell silent only when other cabinet ministers like George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav pounced on his blatant lies and said he was present in the cabinet meeting that took the decision!

Talking on RSS Sarsanghachalak

Advani’s face-off with Mohan Bhagwat, the new Sarsanghachalak, had been building up over the years. He had successfully factionalised the RSS itself – the most telling proof of which was his success in getting a former Sarsanghachalak to ask Atal Bihari Vajpayee to quit the Prime Minister’s post and move to Rashtrapati Bhavan, so Advani could become the PM (a fact disarmingly disclosed by Advani himself in his inane autobiography).

Advani successfully used Sangh associates to force then Sarsanghachalak KS Sudarshan to backtrack on his demand for a younger BJP leadership.

Since then, he defied the RSS for as long as he could on the matter of stepping down from party presidentship after the famous “Jinnah is secular” remark in Pakistan in 2005, and though he managed to get the BJP to project him as PM-in-waiting, the decision never really went down well with the RSS. The result was a virtual no-show by the RSS in the recent elections, and the leadership that wanted a ‘symbiotic’ relationship received a ‘symbolic’ blessing, but could hardly enumerate this as the single most important cause of defeat!

Advani has long perfected the technique of controlling the party by factionalising key persons of the RSS in his favour, and by using selective media leaks to diminish party rivals. This style of media management to control party politics reached its nadir last year when a daily newspaper leaked the story that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was suffering from a brain tumour and unlikely to return to active politics.

Ironically, this leak came close on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the ailing Vajpayee in hospital. The PM, government and Congress party all respected the family’s wishes to keep the ailment private. The plant by an aligned journalist was a grievous blow.

Chintan Baithak

Advani acolytes who do not like the no-nonsense Mohan Bhagwat, popularly known as Mohan ji in the Parivar, call him Mohanrao in highly dismissive terms. 

RSS has been watching the fossilization and degeneration of the BJP, its inability to connect with the people and highlight issues of popular and national concern, with growing alarm. It would have been outraged at the use of selective media leaks to plant stories claiming that ‘Mohanrao’ had been told this, that, and the other (in other words, that he was being effectively silenced by the controlling shareholders of the BJP).

It was only a matter of time before the RSS took the bull by the horns. Mohan Bhagwat made his first decisive move to take the RSS back to its ideological moorings at a public meeting in Chennai recently (see Radha Rajan: Can the RSS shirk its political responsibility? at

Here he must have been approached by TIMES NOW for an interview, which he found appropriate to grant on the very eve of the BJP’s ‘chintan baithak’ in Shimla.

Given the BJP leadership’s incurable reluctance to take responsibility for two successive parliamentary defeats, and refusal to see the writing on the wall and retire gracefully, the Sarsanghachalak decided to himself use the media to convey to the public, and the swayamsevaks in particular, that RSS was not party to the media plants, and was openly nudging Advani to make way for a younger leadership in the age group of 55-60 years.

Worse, the soft-spoken Maharashtrian exposed the well-entrenched lie that he personally visited Advani at his residence in the aftermath of the defeat and asked him to stay on as Leader of the Opposition. Said Bhagwat: I was not in town that day – a blistering indictment by Sangh standards.

When pressed, he clarified that Advani took his own decisions. Advani, said Bhagwat, told him that when he (Advani) wanted to resign after the defeat, his party said that ‘you were prepared to be prime minister if we had won, now why are you running away from this responsibility, so I took back my resignation.’ RSS, he emphasised, had no hand in the decision; this would have enraged the PM-Still-in-Waiting no end.

To rub it in, while politely affirming the BJP’s autonomy in the matter of deciding when and how to effect changes, the Sarsanghachalak made it clear that there would be no deviation from Hindutva; that change was required at “all levels” of the party and that he had been saying this from 2003 (read – I’ve run out of patience); and that the leader had a crucial role in dousing factionalism (read – the leader is responsible for factionalism).

What must have riled the Advani faction, and made Jaswant Singh the scapegoat for serious introspection at Shimla, was the Sarsanghachalak’s polite reminder that when Atalji and Advani were given leadership roles 35 years ago, they were younger men; now it was for Advani to hand over the reins to a younger leadership.

The Sarsanghachalak also negated the Advani group orthodoxy that the new leadership could emerge only from four persons - Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and Narendra Modi. He asked BJP to get over its current instability and return to its old moorings as ‘a party with a difference.’

A tall order, unlikely to be fulfilled in the immediate short term.

BJP will have to admit that the chintan baithak is a failure because it is dishonest. It will have to organise a fresh conclave within a few weeks, with excluded critics invited to make presentations on the reasons for the party’s failure. All state level dissidents should be invited and encouraged to speak freely, so that learning and reconciliation can take place.

Wounded Jaswant lashes out

On his part, however, Jaswant Singh needs to calm down and realise that lashing out at unnamed RSS leaders believed to have sided with Advani in his public humiliation, was as unwarranted and below-the-belt as his own exit. Jaswant Singh is mature enough to know that all the honour he has enjoyed in public life (chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee being the latest instance) has been with the BJP and the RSS.

For one who publicly announced he would never again contest elections or seek office, it was singularly graceless to hit out at a body that would have been taken by surprise by the events at Shimla. In military parlance, it was the equivalent of firing at an unarmed innocent. A man of honour could have refrained from such ignominy.

The author is Editor,

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top