JODHPUR: Jaswant Singh, a former Union minister in the cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who held external affairs, defence and finance portfolios, died on Sunday morning after a prolonged illness. He was 82.
Having joined the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) as one of its early founding members after serving in the Indian Army, when he was refused a Lok Sabha ticket of his choosing from Barmer in Rajasthan, Singh had a bitter fall out with his party in 2014. The 2014 general election, which was his last as an independent but lost, was contested by him. Singh, considered similar to Vajpayee and veteran BJP leader LK Advani, was expelled from the party twice; in 2009, after his book Jinnah-India, Partition, Independence was published, he was expelled by the BJP parliamentary board. After 10 months, he rejoined the party, but faced a second expulsion in 2014 when he defied party orders and questioned the decision of the BJP not to field him as Barmer's contestant.
On Sunday, PM Modi tweeted that Singh, first as a soldier and later during his long association with politics, faithfully served the country. ... He managed important portfolios during Atal Ji 's government and left a powerful mark in the worlds of banking, security and external affairs. Saddened by its death,' wrote the PM. He also said in separate tweets that, true to his nature, for the past six years, Jaswant Singh has battled his illness with tremendous courage. "For his unique outlook on politics and society, Jaswant Singh Ji will be remembered. He has also contributed to the BJP's strengthening. I can recall our experiences at all times. Condolences to his supporters and relatives. Om Shanti, "said PM Modi, tweeting.
During the Kandahar hijacking case, Jaswant Singh, a four-time member of the Lok Sabha and elected to the Rajya Sabha five times, was the Minister of External Affairs and escorted Mulana Masood Azhar and two other terrorists to free hostages on board Indian Airlines IC-814, which was hijacked on December 24 , 1999. Singh was the lead negotiator for talks with the then US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, after India conducted nuclear testing in 1998 and the US imposed sanctions on India. The two-year talks paved the way for the visit of then-US President Bill Clinton, known as a turning point in relations between India and the United States.
After a fall at his home in August 2014, Singh was ill and was admitted to the national capital 's Army Research and Referral Hospital. He was in and out of the hospital and was admitted again in June of this year, and on Sunday morning he died of cardiac arrest.
Amid the chanting of Vedic mantras, his son Manvendra Singh lit the funeral pyre. During the cremation at the farm house located near a civilian airport, Singh's family members and relatives were present.