Patna(PTI): Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, who has been a vocal critic of the current BJP leadership and the government, today quit the party and alleged that there was a “threat” to democracy under the present dispensation.
“I have had a long association with the BJP. Today I am severing my ties with the BJP,” the 80-year-old announced at a meeting here attended by opposition leaders from the Congress and the RJD besides dissident BJP leader and Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Sinha.
Sinha, who held finance finance and external affairs portfolios in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but was sidelined after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah came at the helm, made it clear that he would not join any other political party, saying he was taking ‘sanyas’ (retirement) from party politics and will now work for “saving democracy in the country”.
The BJP said it was not surprised by his decision as it was clear from his opinions and actions that he had been acting at the “behest of the Congress”.
Sinha has been publicly opposing the Modi government’s economic policies and style of functioning.
In a newspaper article, Sinha had criticised Arun Jaitley over what he called the mess the finance minister has made of the economy after which Jaitley hit back calling him “a job applicant at 80 years” who has forgotten his record as finance minister.
In a no-holds barred attack, Sinha had also said that demonetisation had proved to be an unmitigated economic disaster and that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was badly conceived and poorly implemented. He had also deprecated the Centre’s handling of Kashmir.
The representatives of the AAP, the Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool Congress were also present at the meeting today hosted by “Rashtriya Manch” (National Forum) that Sinha had formed on January 30 as an “apolitical forum” to highlight the alleged”anti-people” policies of the Centre.
Everybody in the BJP is living in fear. We are not, he had said launching the platform after publicly raising a banner of revolt .
Sinha today alleged that democracy was “under threat” under the present government and that he would launch a strong movement to “save democracy” in the country.
“I am announcing from this platform that four years back I had quit electoral politics. Now I am taking ‘sanyas’ from party politics. I am not going to be a member of any other political party,” he said.
The BJP said Sinha’s conduct had been improper. “It was clear from his comments and writing that he was no longer in the BJP. These opinions could not be of a BJP leader and he was working at the behest of the Congress.
“The BJP gave him a lot of respect but his conduct was improper,” BJP’s media head Anil Baluni said.
The Congress, meanwhile, took a swipe at the BJP, saying all honest senior leaders are being forced to take ‘sanyas’ in the saffron party.
“It seems in BJP all honest senior leaders above 75 are being forced to take sanyas; except those who have the qualification of being former #JailBirds,” Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tweeted.
A bureaucrat-turned politician, Sinha had joined the BJP in the early 1990’s after a split in the Janata Dal and became its national spokesperson in June 1996. He served as Union Finance and External Affairs Minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
He did not contest 2014 Parliamentary poll and his son Jayant Sinha won from the Hazaribagh seat in Jharkhand on a BJP ticket. Jayant Sinha is Union minister of State for Civil Aviation in the Narendra Modi government at present.
Born on November 6, 1937 in Patna, Yashwant Sinha became an IAS officer in 1960 and held several important administrative posts in Bihar as well the central government during his 24-year tenure.
He served as Principal Secretary to former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur in 1977.
Influenced by Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan, Sinha eventually resigned from the IAS in 1984 and joined active politics as a member of the Janta Party. He was appointed All-India General Secretary of the party in 1986 and was elected member of the Rajya Sabha in 1988.
When the Janta Dal was formed in 1989, he became its General Secretary. He worked as Minister of Finance from November 1990 to June 1991 in Chandra Shekhar’s Cabinet.
Sinha had likened the present situation to that which prevailed 70 years ago when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, on this day and said democracy and its institutions were under attack.
He had even led a farmers agitation in Maharashtra and claimed that the Narendra Modi government had reduced farmers to the status of beggars . He also accused it of presenting made to order statistics to suit its interests.