Jaswant Singh (Image: PIB)
Former Union Minister Jaswant Singh passed away on September 27 aged 82. A retired Indian Army officer and one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Singh held key portfolios, including finance, defence and external affairs, in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
In a political career spanning more than 30 years, Singh also found himself embroiled in controversies that saw him being expelled from the BJP twice, with the final beak coming in in 2014.
One of India's longest-serving parliamentarians, Singh was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1980 and he stayed in Parliament till 2014, either as a member of the Upper House or the Lok Sabha. Singh also served as the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission from 1998–99.
He was entrusted by Prime Minister Vajpayee to lead talks with US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott after America slapped sanctions on India following nuclear tests in 1998. The negotiations paved the way for US President Bill Clinton's India visit, regarded as a turning point in bilateral relations.
Read: Jaswant Singh passes away: Condolences pour in for the veteran leader
The next year, he came in for criticism over the handling of the Kandahar hijacking in 1999. As the foreign minister, Singh had escorted Masood Azhar, Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtak Ahmad Zargar to Kandahar in Afghanistan after the Vajpayee government released the three terrorists to save the lives of 176 passengers and 15 crew members onboard Indian Airlines flight IC814.
Despite being a founding member, Singh was expelled from the BJP twice.
On August 19, 2009, the BJP ousted Singh after he allegedly praised the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his book Jinnah–India, Partition, Independence. Singh reportedly claimed that the centralised policies of Jawaharlal Nehru were responsible for Partition.
Singh, however, was back in the party-fold in June 2010 only to be expelled again in 2014.
Miffed with the BJP's decision to not field him in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Singh decided to contest as an independent from his constituency of Barmer in Rajasthan.
After he refused to withdraw from the contest, Singh was expelled from the BJP on March 29, 2014 and he also lost the election to the party candidate Col Sonaram Choudhary.
On August 7, 2014, Singh suffered a serious head injury and had been in and out of hospital ever since. He died of a cardiac arrest at Delhi’s Army Research and Referral Hospital.
Singh is survived by son Manvendra Singh, a former Member of Parliament and an Indian National Congress (INC) leader. Manvendra left the BJP to join the Congress, citing the "ill-treatment" of his father by the party.
Remembering Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Jaswant Singh ji served our nation diligently, first as a soldier and later during his long association with politics. During Atal ji’s government, he handled crucial portfolios and left a strong mark in the worlds of finance, defence and external affairs. Saddened by his demise."
“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,” he added.