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Jaswant Singh, key BJP face during Vajpayee era, dies

Jaswant Singh was the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha after BJP lost power in 2004. He remained the senior-most leader of the party in the Upper House till 2009. (HT)Premium
Jaswant Singh was the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha after BJP lost power in 2004. He remained the senior-most leader of the party in the Upper House till 2009. (HT)

  • Jaswant Singh, who belonged to Barmer, Rajasthan, held the foreign and defence portfolios in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government
  • One of the founding members of the BJP, Singh was expelled from the party in 2009 for his book on Jinnah. He had also served in the Indian Army

NEW DELHI: Jaswant Singh, former Union minister and one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed away on Sunday after a prolonged illness. The 82-year-old leader had a political career that lasted for more than three decades in which he held several positions, including Union minister for defence and external affairs among others.

Singh was a five-time Member of Parliament (MP) in the Rajya Sabhastarting in 1980, the year that the BJP was formed and had also been a member of Lok Sabha at least four times. He was known to be close to both former minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and senior leader LK Advani. He was one of the key political leaders of the BJP during the tenure of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under Vajpayee between 1998-2004.

“Jaswant Singh Ji will be remembered for his unique perspective on matters of politics and society. He also contributed to the strengthening of the BJP. I will always remember our interactions. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Singh was born in Jasol village of Barmer district in Rajasthan in 1938. Educated at Mayo College in Ajmer, he later joined the Indian Army after passing out from the National Defence Academy (NDA). Manvendra Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, is a former Member of Parliament from Barmer.

Jaswant Singh was part of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS). He joined parliamentary politics in 1980 when he was elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time. During his years in Parliament, he had represented Darjeeling, West Bengal, in Lok Sabha.

“Deeply pained by the passing away of veteran BJP leader & former Minister, Shri Jaswant Singh ji. He served the nation in several capacities including the charge of Raksha Mantri. He distinguished himself as an effective minister and parliamentarian," defence minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.

Apart from external affairs and defence, some of the key portfolios that Singh held as a Cabinet minister during Vajpayee’s tenure included those of minister for electronics and minister for surface transport, among others. He was last elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009.

As a parliamentarian with diverse experience, Singh had cordial relations with lawmakers across political parties. In the Rajya Sabha, Singh went on to serve as leader of the House as well as Leader of Opposition. He was part of several parliamentary committees and chaired the panels on estimates, energy as well as environment and forests.

Jaswant Singh was also the NDA's vice presidential candidate in 2012 when he lost the election to former vice president Hamid Ansari.

Jaswant Singh's relationship with the BJP became difficult after he did not get an election ticket in the 2014 general elections. However, he contested from the the Barmer constituency and lost the election. Soon after the polls, the former Union minister met with an accident in August 2014 and had remained unwell since then.

“Sh Jaswant Singh was a scholar-leader of great majesty, integrity and credibility. Made a mark for himself as the foreign minister and defence minister in Vajpayee govt. End of another stalwart of a glorious past era. My sincere condolences to Manvendra and family. Om Shanti," senior BJP leader Ram Madhav tweeted.

Jaswant Singh was expelled from the BJP in 2009 when his book 'Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence' was published, in which he reportedly praised the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Singh was the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha after BJP lost power in 2004 and he remained the senior-most leader of the party in the Upper House till 2009.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the demise of Shri Jaswant Singh ji. He will be particularly remembered for fashioning a foreign policy for a nuclear India. As foreign minister, he brought out the best in Indian diplomats. His enormous erudition was matched by his extraordinary personal grace. My sincerest condolences to his family. Om Shanti," minister for external affairs S Jaishankar tweeted.

Jaswant Singh had strong ties with Rajasthan, which was his home state. Condoling his death, Rajasthan chief minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot tweeted on Sunday, “My heartfelt condolences at the passing away of senior leader from Rajasthan and former Union minister, Shri Jaswant Singh ji. May God give strength to his family members and supporters in this hour of grief. May his soul rest in peace."

Singh, had been ill after a fall at his home in August 2014 and was admitted to the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi. He had been in and out of the hospital and was admitted again in June this year, according to a news report by PTI. "It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Hon’ble Major Jaswant Singh (Retd), former Cabinet inister of Government of India at 0655 hours on 27 September 2020. He was admitted on 25 Jun 2020 and being treated for Sepsis with Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome and effects of Severe Head Injury old (Optd) had a Cardiac arrest this morning," the hospital said in a statement.

Anuja contributed to the story.

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