NEW DELHI: Jaswant Singh, former Union minister in the Atal Bihar Vajpayee cabinet and earlier founding member of the ruling nationalist party, passed away after fighting prolonged illness.
Singh joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as one of its early founding members and has important portfolios of external affairs, defence and finance. He was close confidant of Vajpayee and veteran BJP leader LK Advani.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to condole his death and lauded his role as a soldier and a politician.
Jaswant Singh Ji 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. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 27, 2020
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.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 27, 2020
He was a four-time member of the Lok Sabha and elected to the Rajya Sabha five times.
As the external affairs minister, during the Kandahar hijacking case in 1999, he had escorted Maulana Masood Azhar and two other terrorists in lieu of the release of hostages on board Indian Airlines IC-814.
Singh was the lead negotiator for talks with the then US deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott after conducting nuclear tests in 1998 and US imposed sanctions. The long negotiation paved the way for the visit of the then US President Bill Clinton, considered to be a turning point in India-US relationship.
He had been in controversy as a member of BJP. He had a falling out with the party twice. In 2009, the parliamentary board of the BJP expelled him after his book 'Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence' was published and in 2014 over a Lok Sabha ticket being denied to him in Balmer, Rajasthan.