BJP expels Jaswant Singh from party

SHIMLA: India’s opposition Hindu nationalists expelled senior figure Jaswant Singh today amid a row over his book praising Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Singh, a former foreign minister and member of parliament for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had questioned the demonisation of Jinnah by Hindu nationalists who blame him for the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

“He has been expelled from the party,” BJP president Rajnath Singh told reporters in the northern hill resort of Shimla where the party was meeting for a brainstorming session. “We decided that he will no more be a member of any party forum,” the BJP chief added.

Singh’s book, titled “Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence,” was published on Monday. In it he portrays the Pakistani leader as a “great personality”.

Reacting to his expulsion on Wednesday, Singh said he was “saddened immensely” that his ouster was triggered by the fact that he had written a book.

“You can dispute what I write, but the day you start questioning thought, start questioning reading, writing, publishing you are entering a very dark alley,” he warned.

“I am convinced in my mind I have committed no sin.” Singh was one of the founding members of the BJP and served as foreign, defence and finance minister between 1998 and 2004 when the Hindu nationalists held power nationally.

In 2005, the BJP leader of the opposition, Lal Krishna Advani, was forced to quit as party head after he sparked controversy by lauding Jinnah as a “great man” and a secular leader during a visit to Pakistan.

In a television interview aired over the weekend, Singh said he had chosen the controversial leader as his subject because Jinnah had “an intricate, complex personality of great character, determination”.

Singh also rejected the popularly-held view that Jinnah was “a

Hindu basher” and solely responsible for the “dismemberment” of

undivided India.

“I don’t think it was dismemberment. He wanted space for the Muslims,” he told the CNN-IBN channel.

If the Congress Party, which led India to freedom in 1947, had agreed to fixed representation for Muslims in India’s parliament and provincial assemblies “there would not have been a partition,” Singh said.