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  3. Jaswant Singh
Finance Ministers of India
Budget Speech:
2004 - 2005 (I) | 2003 - 2004
jaswant singh

Jaswant Singh (born January 3, 1938) is an Indian politician. He is from the Indian State of Rajasthan and was an officer in the Indian Army in the 1960s and is an alumnus of Mayo College and the National Defence Academy (India), Khadakwasla. He served as Finance minister in the short-lived government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which lasted just from May 16, 1996, to June 1, 1996. After Vajpayee became Prime Minister again two years later, he became Minister for External Affairs of India, serving from December 5, 1998 until July 1, 2002. Responsible for foreign policy, he dealt with high tensions between India and Pakistan. In July 2002 he became Finance Minister again, switching posts with Yashwant Sinha. He served as Finance Minister until the defeat of the Vajpayee government in May 2004 and was instrumental in defining and pushing through the market-friendly reforms of the government. Known for his moderate political views, he is a self-described liberal democrat even though the Bharatiya Janata Party is often described as a right-wing nationalist organization. He was conferred the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award for the year 2001. Currently he is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

He is one of the few Indian politicians to have been the Minister for Defence, Finance and External Affairs.

He started the new government of Vajpayee, which lasted its full term, as the External Affairs Minister and later on switched his ministry to Finance with Yashwant Sinha. He was also the Defence Minister when George Fernandes was forced to resign after the Tehelka exposure.

Mr. Singh is widely regarded for his handling of relations with the United States which were strained after the 1998 Indian nuclear tests but which ameliorated soon after culminating in the visit of U.S. President Clinton to India. His skill as a negotiator and diplomat during talks with the United States has been well acknowledged by his U.S. counterpart Strobe Talbott.

Jaswant Singh is also the most influential person in the BJP not from a RSS background.

Jaswant Singh has been criticized by Political parties frequently for escorting terrorist to Kandhar, Afghanistan who were released by Government of India in exchange of passengers from the hijacked Indian Airlines plane. However, an all party meeting was called by the Indian government during that time and the decision taken was mutual by bringing all political parties in confidence.

In 2009 general election, he becomes the candidate of BJP in Darjeeling parliamentary constituency under the state of west Bengal. He replaced the already declared candidate of BJP Mr. Dawa Sherpa, an ex IPS officer.

His candidature was the outcome of long political discussion between BJP and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM), an outfit demanding separate statehood for Hilly and Foothills of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts in the name of Gorkhaland.

The outfit, presumably having good support base in hills, offered its support in the election to different political wings including Indian National Congress, BJP or NCP of Mr. P A Sangma in Darjeeling. In return, they wanted inclusion of the demand of separate Gorkhaland statehood in the parties Election Manifesto. They have also put an additional condition for BJP to replace their declared candidate Mr. Sherpa.

After lot of turmoils and discussion, on the 2nd April late evening, finally BJP declared its decision to go with GJM. It was also accepted to give sympathetic consideration to Gorkhaland issue. Against this, GJM offered their support to BJP in two additional adjoining PCs in foothills- Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri.

Jaswant Singh has been criticized by Political parties frequently for escorting terrorist to Kandhar, Afghanistan who were released by Government of India in exchange of passengers from the hijacked Indian Airlines plane. However, an all party meeting was called by the Indian government during that time and the decision taken was mutual by bringing all political parties in confidence.

In July 2006, Singh released a book titled A Call to Honour: In Service of Emergent India. A controversy erupted immediately after the release of the book, in which Singh insinuated that a mole had existed in the Prime Ministerial Office during the tenure of Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, who had leaked information to American sources. Soon after, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh challenged him to name the mole. In response, Singh sent a letter to him. The letter, Singh said later, had no signature, and no name of any mole. Jaswant Singh then backed off, saying his views on the subject were based on a "hunch".