Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Former Union Minister Jaswant Singh passed away on September 27 at the age of 82. He had been in ill health for quite some time, and had, in 2014, slipped into a coma after suffering an injury.

On Sunday morning, many including Prime Minister Modi took to social media platforms to condole his demise. "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," Modi wrote.

In a follow-up tweet he noted that Singh would be "remembered for his unique perspective on matters of politics and society". And indeed, one has to agree. Singh leaves behind an impressive legacy, having been a nine-time (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) parliamentarian and held some of the biggest Ministry portfolios.

1. While Singh had entered politics decades earlier, his political career took off with a Rajya Sabha nomination in the 1990s. He was the Finance Minister in the 1996 Vajpayee government, and the, the Minister of External Affairs two years later.

2. In December 1999, even as terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight flight travelling from Nepal to India, Singh welcomed the birth of his granddaughter. As Harshini Kumari Rathore wrote in an article, it was a hectic day as India's External Affairs Minister balanced a national crisis and the responsibilities of his personal life. Rathore writes that as a child, monikers such as "hijack baby" and "Kandahari Kumari" had followed her around. Incidentally, Jaswant Singh had been criticised for his handling of the situation.

3. Over the years, Singh has courted controversy on several occasions. A book released by him in 2006, "A Call to Honour" had created quite the stir as it insinuated that there had been a mole in the Prime Minister's Office during the era of the P V Narasimha Rao government. Soon after, he had claimed that a civil servant in a high position in the PMO had leaked information about India's nuclear programme to the US. Challenged by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to disclose the name of the mole, he had sent a letter, but eventually appeared to backtrack.

4. Another book by him led to his eventual removal from the BJP. 'Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence' was published in 2009, and claimed that the centralised policy of India's First Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was responsible for Partition. This eventually saw the BJP leadership expel him from the party's primary membership.

5. On different occasions, Singh had been termed Vajpayee's Hanuman. As Singh himself put it at the time of his expulsion, "During Atalji's time there was a cartoon that I keep framed. In that I was pictured as Hanuman. But now I appear to have become Ravana."

6. Singh was re-admitted to the party in 2010 and was the NDA's Vice Presidential candidate in 2012. He however lost to Hamid Ansari.

7. In 2014, Singh one again ran afoul of his party, after being denied a ticket for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He had wished to contest from Barmer in Rajasthan. Undeterred, he had filed his nomination as an independent candidate. Subsequently however, he was expelled from the party for six years.

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Free Press Journal

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