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Jaswant Singh NDA's best bet for vice prez polls

Last updated on: July 16, 2012 17:18 IST

The National Democratic Alliance could not have got a candidate for vice-presidential poll with more gravitas than Jaswant Singh, a former army officer who has headed finance, defence and external affairs ministries, authored books and even served as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

 Even those who do not support the Bharatiya Janata Party or the NDA agree that by fielding Singh against UPA vice-presidential nominee Hamid Ansari the opposition has given stature and some seriousness to the contest.

74-year-old Singh was a major in the Indian army when he quit the services in the 1960s to join politics. He was at his peak during the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

At different times during this six year rule (1998-2004), he headed the finance, defence and external affairs ministries.

Singh's political career has seen several ups and downs and he is not new to controversies. During the Air India hijack in December, 1999, Singh was criticised for accompanying the terrorists to Kandahar in Afghanistan to bring back the hijacked passengers.

A trusted associate of Vajpayee, he was always beside the prime minister during the 13-day government in 1996. He was one of the most important people in Vajpayee's team along with Brajesh Mishra and Pramod Mahajan.

Later he served as the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha till 2009 when he accepted an offer from local parties fighting for Gorkhaland to contest from Darjeeling. He is presently MP from the hill district.

Singh was expelled from the BJP in August 2009 after he praised Pakistan-founder M A Jinnah in his book- "Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence". However, party president Nitin Gadkari brought him back to the party in 2010.

Singh proved his mettle as the external affairs minister after Pokharan-II when he dealt with the US which had imposed several sanctions on India.

When Defence Minister George Fernandes had to resign in the wake of the Tehelka sting operation in 2001, Singh -- who was then the External Affairs Minister -- was also given charge of  defence from March till October.

Singh showed his stubborn side when he refused BJP's request to step down from the post of chairperson of the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had visited his home and asked him to relinquish the post as he had been expelled from the BJP but Singh refused.

He stepped down in December 2009 on his own though there were three months left for his tenure to end.

Many feel Jaswant Singh is a misfit in BJP as he is a self-confessed liberal democrat who stood for market-friendly policies during his stint as the finance minister. It is not surprising then that the Sangh fount head RSS has never really liked him.

Singh came to Parliament for the first time in 1980 when he became a Rajya Sabha member. He has served five terms in the Upper House and is in his fourth term in the Lok Sabha. His earlier tenures in the Lower House were from Barmer in Rajasthan.

He was conferred the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 2001. An alumni of the prestigious Mayo College, Singh has also been Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission.

Singh has authored 12 books and is currently working on a biography of C Rajagopalachari.

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