(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)
March 10, 2020, was the Holi festival, which is widely celebrated all over north India. The Prime Minister and others said that they will not celebrate Holi due to Coronavirus. Nothing unusual was expected till TV broke the news that senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had just met Home Minister Amit Shah and both were on their way to meet the Prime minister Narendra Modi. That was a political explosion that shattered the peace of Holi. For the entire day, Indian media was focused on Scindia and what will happen in Madhya Pradesh and to the Congress and BJP.
Jyotir Aditya Scindia is no ordinary politician. He is the son of late Madhav Rao Scindia, who joined the Congress in 1980, became a central Minister and died in a plane crash in 2001. Jyotir Aditya Scindia is the grandson of the late JiyajiRao Scindia, who was the last King of Gwalior. In fact, in 1967, the grandmother of Jyotir Aditya Scindia called Rajamata Vijaya Raje Scindia was a founder member of the Jana Sangh.
In 1967, Vijaya Raje Scindia helped form the first non-Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. The Scindias are personally popular and have the respect of the general public in Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Remember the Royal politicians are usually honest and will not grab money or be cheaply corrupt as other politicians.
Since 2002, when Jyotir Scindia won a by-election in Guna for his father’s seat in Madhya Pradesh, Scindia was a very important Congress leader. Scindia also served for 10 years as a Minister in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. However, in 2019, Scandia lost his parliament election in Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress Party under Kamal Nath formed the state government in December 2019 in Madhya Pradesh. But since then, Jyotiraditya Scindia has been feeling marginalized by the Congress Party. It now appears that this marginalization is deliberate and perhaps had the blessings of the Gandhi family. There is one strange thing; Jyotir Scindia always won his elections from 2004, when there was a strong BJP government in Madhya Pradesh under Shivraj Singh Chauhan of the BJP. But he lost his parliament election in 2019 when a Congress chief Minister was ruling Madhya Pradesh. This has created big suspicions that Scindia was sabotaged by his own Congress party.
Just this week, there was a discussion in the Congress Party for Rajya Sabha seats and Jyotir Scindia felt that there was a conspiracy to deny him even a Rajya Sabha seat. So a combination of politics, conspiracies, and jealousies made Scindia feel that he has no further future in the Congress Party. So on Holiday, Scindia wrote his resignation letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and started an explosion of politics.
On March 12, 2020, Scindia joined the BJP. There will be consequences for the Congress, the BJP and for Scindia himself.
Scindia’s exit and its impact on the Congress party :
The Madhya Pradesh Congress government will fall at any event. Whether it falls tomorrow or a few days later is immaterial. The exit of Scindia along with some MLAs has created great instability. Madhya Pradesh is headed by a seasoned politician Kamal Nath and the Congress Party will lose his help across the nation. The loss of Madhya Pradesh will also cause losses of morale for the Congress Party.
The neighboring states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand will feel tension since they are either coalition governments or a Minority government in Rajasthan which got support from non-Congress MLAs. Maharashtra is a very shaky coalition and if the Madhya Pradesh BJP forms the government, then definitely there will be very early consequences. There will be many politicians in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan who might want to switch to the BJP.
Right now, the Congress Party is without a permanent President. Many younger leaders have been publicly demanding that a permanent President be elected. These leaders have said that if Rahul Gandhi does not want to be President, then someone else should be President. The defection of Jyotir Scindia has made their argument stronger that the Congress party is leaderless and going down very quickly. There is a soft rebellion against the Gandhis.
The Gandhis are also being blamed for not protecting Jyotir Scindia from the hostile actions of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh. There is a general opinion that the senior leaders wanted to ensure that Scindia left the Party. These senior leaders assessed that out of 230 MLAs, the Congress had 114 MLAs and controlled independent MLAs and other smaller parties. They felt that even if Scindia left the Congress Party, only 6 MLAs would leave with him. But when 22 Congress MLAs gave their resignation letters to the Madhya Pradesh Speaker that caused a big shock. After that, many Independent MLAs also switched their support to the BJP.
Consequences for the BJP :
The exit of Scindia from the Congress and joining the BJP has been a very big bonus to the BJP. There has been a lot of bad political news for the BJP in the last 6 months. The BJP lost Maharashtra and Jharkhand and also started facing an untied Opposition on the CAA, NRC, and other laws. Moreover, it was felt that Congress had an iron grip on the State governments that it ruled. Scindia has changed that perception and it has been a major boon for the BJP and with many positive results.
In the next few days, if the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh falls, then it will be a big boost to the BJP. The BJP can also say that it did not do engineer defections and that a senior Congress leader left the Congress, which is a fact. Once Congress loses control of Madhya Pradesh, then its other governments will become vulnerable.
Scindia is 49 years old and not a competitor to Shivraj Singh Chauhan and other senior Madhya Pradesh leaders who are above 70 years. Moreover, if Scindia is able to adjust well in the BJP, he will be a younger face and a face of change for the BJP. The BJP is also short of talent and charismatic figures. Scindia will change the face of BJP in Madhya Pradesh.
The fact that a senior leader like Scindia switched to the BJP allows the BJP to try to win over other established leaders across the country. Even regional parties will be ready to form alliances with the BJP as they see that even Scindia joined the BJP.
The trouble in Madhya Pradesh for the Congress will help the BJP in the coming election in Bihar. Smaller parties which are opposed to the BJP might now join the BJP. Or dissident leaders in such parties might switch to the BJP. Definitely, the joining for Scindia will help the BJP across northern India.
Scindia’s future and prospects
What will happen after 10 years one cannot predict. But straight away, Scindia will be in the Rajya Sabha and may become a minister too. Had he continued in the Congress, Scindia would have had no office till 2024. Then in 2024, Scindia would have to contest for the Lok Sabha again, with all its risks. So straight away, Scindia’s career is
In 2019, Jyotir Scindia lost his Parliament election. His father Madhav Rao Scindia never lost an election till he died in 2001. Then Scindia won 4 elections. So the first time defeat in 2019 is a very serious shock to Scindia. If he did not regain office and prestige, his followers would leave him. Hence Scindia will now save his following and prestige. If he remained in the Congress, Scindia will be engaged in bitter factional wars with Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh, who have offices, while he is a defeated man.
Vijaya Raje Scindia was the grandmother of Scindia and she was a founder and senior-most leader of the BJP. Therefore for Scindia, the BJP is not a stranger. There is a lot of respect for his family in the BJP. Further, Scindia was the biggest ruler in Madhya Pradesh for hundreds of years. Their image is very high and hence, Scindia will have no problem adjusting and thriving in the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi has commented that Scindia will not get a lot of respect in the BJP. The question which Rahul Gandhi should answer is why did Congress not show enough respect to Scindia? Why did Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi keep quiet when Scindia felt insulted and cornered in the Congress? By allowing Scindia to be insulted in the Congress, Rahul Gandhi has shown that he has no friends and that he will not protect anyone and leave them to their fates.
Hence Scindia decided that his fate was better in his own hands and quit the Congress and joined the BJP. But right now, the Congress is shocked and really has no answer to Scindia’s exit.
(Dr Pentapati Pullarao is a New Delhi based economist and political commentator)