The Shimla ridge at seven thousand odd feet above sea level is the perfect altitude where the two can co-exist. Lovely deodars and moss coated oaks.
After a torrential downpour in the last week of August in 2009, the sunshine washed the valley below as a steady cool gale climbed up through the dense foliage. A steady stream of cavalcade entered the Peterhoff, the abode for seven Viceroys and Governor Generals in pre-independent India’s winter capital, and later converted to a government hotel.
Top BJP leadership had all gathered at the hill station to dissect the cause and implications of the debilitating defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha.
However, one senior leader of the party waited in his room in Hotel Cecil, waiting for further instructions from the then President Rajnath Singh. A few hours into the meeting, Jaswant Singh was informed by the BJP not to drive up to the meeting venue as he had been expelled by the party for his book on Jinnah.
The expulsion was swift and without any glitches, and everyone agreed to it, including LK Advani, who was Singh’s close friend.
Some felt the expulsion was triggered more out of political compulsions — that a section of the BJP leadership wanted to down play the fact-finding report on the party’s debacle and Singh was a mere scapegoat.
Singh, the former External Affairs, Finance and Defence Minister of India, had one regret as he left Shimla for Delhi. Party did not give him even an opportunity to present his case.
It was also the beginning of the end of Vajpayee-Advani era in the BJP. When the gen-next leaders were jostling to position themselves as claimants of real power.
It was not the first time that the former army officer turned politician would have a run in with the hardliners in the BJP. A close aide of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Singh’s appointment as finance minister was once vetoed by the RSS — when the former RSS Joint Secretary Madan Das Devi walked into 10, Race Course Road, seeking a more ‘swadeshi’ FM to suit the RSS agenda.
From Jasol in Barmer district of Rajasthan, Singh entered Rajya Sabha in early eighties. He was said to be close to former Vijaya Raje Scindhia. With party’s rise in national politics, he became a key figure in drafting party’s policy on foreign policy and defence. He carried mantle after BJP was catapulted to power in late 90s serving as defence, finance and foreign.
Post Pokhran tests, he remained the key negotiator when economic sanctions were imposed on India. His personal rapport with former US assistant secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, helped redefine India’s relationship with the US in the post-Cold War era.
Singh continued to represent Darjeeling LS seat till 2014. He was denied ticket by the party in the next general elections so he decided to contest as an independent. He lost the election to the BJP candidate.