New Delhi, September 27: India’s veterans and political leaders mourned the death of the BJP veteran and former Union minister Jaswant Singh following a cardiac arrest in New Delhi today. He was 82.
A soft-spoken man, Jaswant Singh was one of the founding members of the BJP and a leading light of the party when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani helmed it through the tumultuous period of Indian politics. And with his demise, another party stalwart of that era has passed into eternity.
The Indian Army Research and Referral hospital in Delhi said, “Despite the best efforts of the attending team of specialists to resuscitate him, he could not be revived and passed away at 6.55am.”
The hospital said Major Jaswant Singh (Retd), former cabinet minister, was admitted on June 25 and was being treated for Sepsis with Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome and effects of a severe head injury.
He was Covid negative.
President Ram Nath Kovind said on Twitter, “The demise of veteran soldier, outstanding parliamentarian, exceptional leader and intellectual Shri Jaswant Singh is distressing. He combined many difficult roles with ease and equanimity. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”
Life of a stalwart: Jaswant Singh
He had retired as a Major-rank officer from the Indian Army and was very punctual in his meetings with different people.
Even though he was from an Army background, he not only handled the portfolios of defence, but also finance and external affairs in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments. He was one of the key ministers when Vajpayee’s government was in power at the Centre.
Singh, who hailed from Rajasthan, first served as the Union finance minister in the short lived Vajpayee government in 1996.
He became the external affairs Minister in the next Vajpayee-led government (1998-2002).
Later, he was again given the charge of finance in 2002. The veteran leader was also deputy chairman of the Planning Commission at one point in time.
The BJP leader was made the defence minister following the resignation of George Fernandes after the latter’s name cropped up in a defence scam.
Talks with Taliban
An astute politician,Singh hogged the limelight the world over when he was tasked to hold talks with the Taliban for the release of passengers of an Indian Airlines flight hijacked in December 1999.
He even escorted three terrorists, accused of various crimes that included the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, to Afghanistan to swap in lieu of the safe release of 190 passengers.
After the 1998 nuclear tests by India, Singh was deputed by then Prime Minister Vajpayee to engage the US in strategic talks.
After the BJP party lost power at the Centre in 2004 to the United Progressive Alliance, Jaswant Singh served as the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2004 to 2009.
The veteran leader stirred a controversy after the BJP suffered its second successive defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by circulating a note to demand a thorough discussion on the poll debacle.
Marginalised after book on Jinnah
He again faced a backlash in 2009 from certain quarters after a book authored by him on Pakistan leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah, entitled Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence was released.
He had written sympathetically about the founder of Pakistan. Later, the BJP leader was marginalised within the party and subsequently expelled.
He was reinducted into the party later on, but parted ways in 2014.
Singh even contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as an Independent from Barmer in Rajasthan after failing to get a BJP ticket but lost to the party nominee Colonel Sona Ram.
Soon after the general elections in 2014, Jaswant Singh slipped in the bathroom of his residence on August 7 that year, and suffered a serious head injury.
Prime minister mourns demise
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he served the nation diligently, first as a soldier and later during his long association with politics.
“During Atalji’s government, he handled crucial portfolios and left a strong mark in the worlds of finance, defence and external affairs. Saddened by his demise,” the Prime Minister took to social media to convey his message.
He also said Singh 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,” said Modi adding that he spoke to his son Manvendra Singh and expressed condolences on the unfortunate demise.
“True to his nature, Jaswantji fought his illness with immense courage for the last six years,” Modi said.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh said that Jaswant Singh would be remembered for his intellectual capabilities and stellar record in service to the nation.
“He also played a key role in strengthening the BJP in Rajasthan. Condolences to his family and supporters in this sad hour. Om Shanti,” the minister said.
The defence minister said he was deeply pained by the passing away of veteran BJP leader and former minister.
“He served the nation in several capacities including the charge of Raksha Mantri. He distinguished himself as an effective Minister and Parliamentarian,” Singh said.
Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda were among the state leaders who mourned the death.
Andhra Pradesh governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan also condoled the demise and recalled his contribution to public life.
Political leaders in Tamil Nadu and other states condoled the death as well.
Speaker Om Birla also remembered Singh as an efficient politician and army officer.
Bollywood pays tribute
Several members from the film industry took to social media to pay condolences.
“He was a patriot, an army man, a writer, a thinker, a progressive & a visionary leader who was loved & revered across party lines. Deepest condolences to Manvendra Bhai, the entire family. Rest In Glory Sir,” actor Riteish Deshmukh tweeted.
Veteran actor Sanjay Khan remembered Jaswant Singh as a “true gentleman”.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Jaswant Singh, Central Minister and BJP stalwart. I had the pleasure of knowing. He was a true gentleman and a newborn person. My heartfelt condolences to his family and numerous followers,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
Shabana Azmi, too, paid her condolences.
“How sad. Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” Azmi wrote on one of her posts on Instagram.