Hamish Macdonald speaks to the politician whose book has sparked outrage in India.
“But the same problems seem to have afflicted my former political party. It has become sycophantic, full of time servers.”
The BJP expelled Singh, a former foreign minister, over his book Jinnah: India-Partition Independence, which presents a sympathetic portrayal of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.
Jinnah is a controversial figure in India and considered the architect of the country’s partition with Pakistan because of his drive for a Muslim homeland.
Singh’s book also holds Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and other leaders of the Congress party responsible for the partition.
The controversy has also prompted some analysts to suggest the BJP is moving to reinvent itself along tougher, more nationalistic lines in the wake of its election defeat in May.
The BJP rose to prominence in the early 1990s on the back of a Hindu-revivalist movement and ruled from 1998 to 2004, promoting economic reforms, before losing to Congress that year.
Singh sees his book as an academic work that addresses the “manufacturing” of history in India that has demonised Jinnah.
The book sparked protests in New Delhi by right-wing activists who burnt an effigy of Singh, but in his interview with Al Jazeera, the former minister defended his book.
“India has demonised Mohammad Ali Jinnah just as Pakistan has demonised Mahatma Gandhi, or [Jawaharlal] Nehru or [Sardar Vallabhbhai] Patel,” he said, referring to India’s iconic independence leader, the country’s first prime minister and first home minister respectively.
“Once the full book is read, [and] the narrative is grasped, then you understand the enormity of the tragedy and the fruitlessness of the partition, certainly to me,” he said.
Singh is the second leader of the BJP to have been criticised for his remarks on Jinnah.
In 2005, LK Advani, the then party chief and the current leader of the opposition, offered to step down after he described Jinnah as “secular”, causing a furore in India.