Jaswant Singh, a moderate voice in right-wing dispensation


New Delhi : Veteran leader Jaswant Singh, thrown out by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday, was a moderate face in a party known to be a right-wing organisation ever since its inception.

Support TwoCircles

In contrast to several hawkish senior leaders, Jaswant Singh’s was a moderate voice that represented the English-speaking, progressive view in the party that had helped it to reach a wider urban constituency beyond its conservative, Hindu chauvinist, trader base.

He was among the few BJP leaders who did not mince words in criticising the Ram Sene, a right-wing fundamentalist outfit whose members attacked a group of women in a Mangalore pub in January this year.

Similarly, during the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, Jaswant Singh was one of the very few leaders who avoided coming out in defence of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

After the Mangalore attack, Singh said in a media interview: “It (the assault on women in the pub by Sri Rama Sene activists) is an obscenity. Who gives them the moral right to police our society? It can only be possible in the absence of any understanding about our culture, ethos and liberal values.”

“I cannot countenance efforts to Talibanise the Hindu society,” he said, when his own party leaders were giving conflicting reactions, sometimes defending the attack on women in the pub and sometimes washing their hands of it.

Though there is a BJP government in Karnataka, Singh said: “I am opposed to the government entering people’s bedrooms. And if women want to relax and have a drink, whose business and right is it to object?”

The 71-year-old leader’s book, taking a non-conventional view on Mohammed Ali Jinnah that completely contradicts the BJP’s position, also comes from his moderate thinking.

In the book, “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence”, he has praised Jinnah while in a television interview last week Singh said Jinnah was made the villain of Partition though Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel also had a role in it.

During the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, in which members of a minority community bore the brunt, Singh was among the few BJP leaders who did not speak out publicly in support of Modi while several party seniors stoutly defended the state government.