Snubbed BJP Veteran Blasts Party in Modi Test Before India Vote

A senior member of India’s main opposition party said he’d run as an independent in next month’s election after being passed over for a seat, underscoring leader Narendra Modi’s challenge in keeping members unified.

Jaswant Singh, a former BJP finance and foreign affairs minister, filed to contest as an independent candidate from Barmer constituency in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Singh, 76, was a founding member of the party and represented it in parliament for more than three decades.

“The BJP has humiliated some of the older, more educated, and urbane members of the party,” said Neera Chandhoke, a retired professor of politics at Delhi University. “What you are left with is a more hardcore Hindu party that may turn up some voters, particularly outside of northern India.”

Singh’s departure exposes a generational divide within the BJP that threatens to derail Modi’s efforts to attract allies to form a stable government and pass measures to bolster India’s economy. Opinion polls show the party winning the most seats while falling short of a majority.

The BJP on March 21 fielded Sonaram Choudhary, who recently defected from the ruling Congress party, as its candidate from Barmer. Singh then urged party workers to differentiate between the “real BJP” and “fake BJP.”

“They decided to go for somebody who jumped the styles and walked into the party,” Singh, who had helped draft the BJP’s election manifesto, said yesterday. “I feel greatly aggrieved and that has forced me to take the step that I did.”

‘Pained’

Sushma Swaraj, the party’s most senior leader in the lower house of parliament, said she was “pained” at the decision to deny Singh a ticket.

“It would have been better if this situation had not arisen and he didn’t go to that extent,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a BJP spokesman, said in New Delhi yesterday. “If he goes, the party cannot do anything.”

The BJP is on course to win 195 of 543 seats up for grabs in the lower house of parliament, according to an opinion poll released March 14 by NDTV Television channel and Hansa Research. The ruling Congress party, in power for a decade, may get 106 seats, its worst-ever performance, the poll indicated.

“They have been disrespectful and dishonorable to the principles of the party,” Singh said at a rally in Barmer yesterday. “The manner in which the decision was taken reeks of plain dictatorship.”

BJP Veterans

Other BJP veterans have also expressed displeasure during the process to select candidates for the election.

Earlier this month, Lal Krishna Advani, a former home minister and deputy prime minister, expressed anger after the party slotted him to run in Modi’s state of Gujarat against his wishes. Advani, who led the campaign of BJP in 2004 and 2009 elections, said on March 20 he was “deeply touched” when the party said he could contest wherever he wanted.

Murli Manohar Joshi, a former BJP president, was also unhappy that he had to give up his seat in Varanasi for Modi, who wanted to contest from one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, the Indian Express reported, citing unidentified sources. Joshi will contest from Kanpur, another seat in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state.

To contact the reporters on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net; Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi at amacaskill@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net Karthikeyan Sundaram

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