New Delhi: Starting with a whimper, the fault lines within the BJP over ticket distribution for Lok Sabha elections are now loud and clear with senior leader Sushma Swaraj making it clear that she was hurt after senior colleague Jaswant Singh was denied ticket to contest from his home town Barmer in Rajasthan.
A candid Sushma Swaraj also went on to say that the decision on Barmer seat was not taken at the party's Central Election Committee meeting. The BJP leader though avoided to make it evident that there was indeed a bitter bickering within the party saying, "This is not an ordinary decision and there must be a reason for it."
The BJP, however, claimed that Sushma Swaraj had neither criticised nor expressed anguish over party's decision to deny the Barmer ticket to Jaswant Singh. "Sushma Swaraj has just expressed her grief over the matter which other party leaders also have," said BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi.
Jaswant Singh, 76, had expressed his willingness to contest from his home town Barmer saying that it would be his last Lok Sabha election, instead the BJP decided to put him up from Dahod in Gujarat. After BJP refused his demand, sources are saying that a miffed Singh is likely to quit the party and contest as an Independent.
Enraged Singh's supporters too expressed their displeasure by protesting outside the BJP office in Barmer on Saturday evening.
Singh's supporters also targeted BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Barmer and tore up the campaign posters to protest against the denial of ticket to the senior leader who is currently a Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling in West Bengal.
They burnt Modi's effigies at several places in Barmer. Several posters of Jaswant Singh have also been put up in Barmer. They also stormed the BJP office in Jaisalmer and shouted slogans saying they would not support Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary, the official BJP candidate for Barmer.
The veteran leader too expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms. "There is a real and a fake BJP. I cannot decide which is which but the people will. I have fought for the real BJP till now," he said.
However, the party is adamant over its decision. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley hinted that the BJP is unlikely to re-think its decision denying Jaswant Singh a ticket from Barmer as the party has also named Colonel Sona Ram Choudhury as its candidate from the constituency. "I regret that we were unable to accommodate a senior leader like Jaswant Singh. However, the party will make place for him in some other position," said Jaitley.
BJP President Rajnath Singh said that the party would utilise Jaswant Singh's experience. "Jaswant Singh is a very senior leader and the party values and respects him. BJP will utilise his experience to the fullest," he said.
Earlier, BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani too had expresssed his unhappiness over not being allowed to contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh after he was given a ticket to contest from his traditional seat of Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
Advani later relented and agreed to contest from Gandhinagar but not before Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu met and mollified him.