My fight is between fake and real BJP: Jaswant Singh
Amid intense speculation that he might quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after being denied a ticket to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections from his home town of Barmer in Rajasthan, former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh today said the party had been encroached upon by "outsiders".
He was apparently referring to the fact that the BJP had given Lok Sabha tickets to several people who had joined it in recent days and weeks, including Col Sonaram Choudhary, who switched sides from the Congress recently and was named the candidate from Barmer yesterday.
"All workers of the BJP must be seriously concerned about these developments," he said.
Talking to journalists at Jodhpur on his way to Barmer, where he will meet his supporters today and tomorrow before taking a decision on his future course of action, Mr Singh, 76, also made it clear that he would indulge in any bargaining with the party for post-election positions or any other offers from it.
"My sense of honour is not subject to trading," he said, even as BJP President Rajnath Singh and senior party leader Arun Jaitley said that the party would utilise Mr Singh's abilities in an appropriate manner.
Mr Rajnath Singh said the importance that the BJP acccorded to Mr Singh could not be judged on the basis of an election ticket alone. "He is far above that," he said.
Mr Jaitley said it was true that the BJP had not been able to accommodate Mr Singh's wishes as far as Barmer was concerned, but the party would use his abilities in other ways.
"The challenge today is between the real BJP and the fake BJP," Mr Singh said in Jodhpur today.
"Only the people can decide on the difference between the two," he said.
He said he had lived and struggled all these years to uphold the principles on which the BJP was founded and it was important that he continued to do so.
He said it was for the BJP to realise what would add value to the party, to India and to the people of India.
The BJP's decision to deny the ticket to Mr Singh is being seen as yet another indication that the old order in the party is being forced to yield place to the new.
According to media reports, Mr Singh had conveyed to the BJP leadership that he would contest the election from Barmer as an independent candidate if the party decides against nominating him.
He has never contested from Barmer, having been elected to the Lok Sabha from Chittorgarh in Rajasthan in 1991 and 1996, and from Darjeeling in West Bengal in the last general elections in 2009.
According to sources, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had pushed for a ticket for Col Choudhary, a Jat leader, after he joined the BJP some time ago.
Col Choudhary had lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from Barmer to Mr Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra Singh, who now represents Sheo - a part of the Barmer Parliamentary constituency - in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.
While Mr Singh has not spoken out about his future course of action, the speculation was that he might resign from the BJP in a day or two and decide to contest from Barmer as an independent candidate or ask his son to contest from the constituency, again as an independent. He said that he would announce his decision at Barmer on Monday.
The move to deny Mr Singh a ticket has also upset a section of BJP workers in Barmer.
These development have come just a day after the BJP had, on Thursday, managed to mollify its veteran leader Lal Krishna Advani into accepting the party's decision to field him from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, though he had expressed his wish to shift to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
Earlier, another party veteran, Murli Manohar Joshi, was reportedly upset after he had to make way for BJP Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who wanted to contest the Lok Sabha elections from his constituency of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. He was persuaded finally to move to Kanpur.
Another senior leader, Lalji Tandon, had to give up his claim over Lucknow, the seat held by him, to accommodate Mr Rajnath Singh, who decided against contesting from Ghaziabad, the seat he had won the last time.
In Punjab, three-time MP and former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu had to make way in Amritsar for senior leader Arun Jaitley.