New Delhi : Jaswant Singh, a central figure in the governments of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was summarily expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday, was a key member of the party’s core decision-making group though never a mass leader.
During his six-year stint in the government, he experienced both highs and lows. The acme of his achievement was his exhaustive rounds of a dialogue that he as external affairs minister minister held with Strobe Talbott, his counterpart in the US administration, following the 1998 Indian nuclear test.
They met as many as 14 times in seven countries between June 1998 and September 2000. These talks have been widely acknowledged by present US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as having laid the groundwork for the eventual transformation of Indo-US ties.
The low point in his ministerial career was when he led Pakistani terrorists to freedom in Kandahar in Afghanistan in December 1999 after the hijack of flight IC-814 by Islamists.
Between 1980, when he first became a Rajya Sabha member, and now, as a Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling, he has been the defence, the finance and the external affairs minister — very few have handled all three portfolios — besides being on many committees of parliament.
He was also conferred the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 2001.
His trademark epaulettes and his customary evening drink were the only vestiges of his army background that he carried with him after joining politics.
The man who joined the BJP at its inception in 1980 was never identified with any camp in the BJP; nor was he close to the party’s ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Jaswant Singh, a liberal democrat who was all for economic reforms when he was the finance minister during the BJP-led government between 1999 and 2004, is a prolific writer who has authored ten books.
The latest, ‘Jinnah — India, Partition, Independence,’ cost him his membership of the BJP.
The 1938 born Singh hails from Rajasthan and is an alumnus of Mayo College and the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla near Pune.
Singh spent much of his career as an MP in the Rajya Sabha. But he was elected to the Lok Sabha twice. This time, he won from Darjeeling with the support of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha whom the BJP promised a separate Gorkhaland if it came to power.