When 43 ministers were sworn in to be part of the Modi cabinet in a brief ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday, former senior Congress leader and now a BJP Rajya Sabha MP remained the cynosure of all eyes.
A third-generation politician from all-powerful Scindia royal family of Gwalior, Jyotiraditya Scindia had witnessed an ideological divide for long between the Jansangh-BJP and the Congress. The divide was bridged last year when Scinidia, along with 22 party MLAs, joined the BJP following a rift with the state and central party leadership of Congress.
His elevation as a Union minister comes as an obvious news for many after he helped BJP regain power in Madhya Pradesh but along with it come several political connotations.
As Scindia’s pre-exit term in Congress was dubbed as a difficult one with his stiff rivalry with then chief minister, Kamal Nath, and his old detractor, Digvijaya Singh, observers had opined that his early days won’t be a cakewalk in BJP, especially in the Gwalior-Chambal region, the traditional fortress of Scindias, which is packed with senior leaders of the BJP state unit, including union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, RSS ideologue and the MP Vivek Shejwalkar, state Home Minister Narottam Mishra, Arvind Singh Bhadauria and not to forget two old detractors of Scindia, including ex-Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha and former Bajrang Dal chief Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya.
There were leaders like former MP chief minister Uma Bharti who had welcomed Scindia in BJP with an open heart.
Starting a political inning afresh Scindia, however, had flexed his muscle when Shivraj Singh Chouhan expanded his cabinet and 14 of non-MLA Scindia supporters found a place in the cabinet.
His followers are expected to be accommodated in boards and corporations and also in the party organisation after state head VD Sharma formed his team. Still a number of them await political rehabilitation.
Moreover, Scindia was persistently targeted and taunted for not being made a Union minister by his old party colleagues, who also rebuked him, saying his stature of ‘Maharaja’ and ‘Shrimant’ enjoyed by him in Congress had diminished in the BJP. He also faced stiff competition for taking credit of works in Gwalior region as Gwalior MP Vivek Shejwalkar kept snatching credits for the projects.
He was also seen as a potential challenge to senior BJP leader Narendra Singh Tomar who comes from the same region as Scindia. Besides, several of his supporters like Imarti Devi, who had left the post of cabinet minister in Congress to join BJP with him, were feeling left out. Devi had lost in bypolls and was removed as minister.
However, Scindia’s elevation as a Union minister has silenced many of his critics, tilting things in his favour in his home state.
His old party had little to say as he was inducted into the Modi cabinet, that too as a cabinet minister with ministries like Civil Aviation and Tourism. Giving him a lot of weightage, he was placed at fourth number while being sworn in on Thursday, said a political analyst in the state who claimed that this has thwarted Congress accusations that Scindia betrayed them and also could not get a respectable place in the new party.
His supporters too are feeling buoyed by his elevation and it was evident when diehard follower Imarti Devi met Scindia in New Delhi on Friday and broke into tears. Besides a post of union minister would enable Scindia to reclaim his dented status in Gwalior-Chambal region, a senior journalist from Gwalior said.
Many believe that Scindia now could play a role in 2023 assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh with a fresh vigour.
However, Scindia’s heightened status also have set alarm bells ringing for his detractors in Madhya Pradesh.
However, no sooner than speculations of a possible rift between him and Scindia were discussed in social media, a seasoned politician Narendra Singh Tomar reached Civil Aviation ministry in New Delhi and greeted Scindia for his inclusion into the union cabinet. However, those in the know of Gwalior politics claims that these hugs and smiles can’t be taken at the face value.
Scindia could also find a challenge from BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya who missed a berth in Union cabinet and holds clout in Malwa region. If Scindia, who is known for his rivalry with Vijayvargiya in MP Cricket Association elections and in politics, wishes to cement his presence in Malwa-Nimar region, Vijayvargiya could emerge as a potential hurdle. During his recent visit to Malwa, the two leaders did not meet.
Others like former BJP chief whip in Lok Sabha, Rakesh Singh and MoS Prahlad Patel are feeling disheartened as Singh wasn’t included in the cabinet while Patel was stripped of his Mos independent charge of Tourism and Culture ministry and has been handed ministries like Water Resources and Food Processing. This tally extends further with state senior leaders who missed the ministerial berths as large numbers of Scindia followers made it to the Shivraj cabinet.
Interestingly, KP Yadav, Scindia’s old-time disciple, who had handed an infamous defeat to this royal in Lok Sabha poll in year 2019, was quick to celebrate in favour of his old mentor after cabinet expansion on Thursday. Yadav was, till recently, upset with Scindia’s entry into the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha polls in year 2019.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is known for sidleining his opponents with his political acumen, and leaders like state Home Minister Narottam Mishra, who are known for their ambitions, won’t be feeling too comfortable with Scindia’s grown stature.
Kamal Nath, who lost power after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure in year 2020, was cautious commenting on his elevation. “Yes, he has gotten into the Union cabinet, let him be happy,” Nath said on Friday, adding, let’s see how things shape up in future (between Scindia and the BJP).
One of his biggest detractors, Digvijaya Singh, is yet to comment on his elevation in the Modi cabinet.
However, many believe that Scindia’s glamorous looks, his youth appeal and suave image are expected to land some key political assignments for him from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre as well.
To add, by rewarding Scindia with a cabinet berth, the Prime Minister Modi has already signalled a message to those who rebel again own parties and support the BJP that their sacrifices won’t go waste, a former political editor of a leading Hindi daily said.