Does Scindia fit into BJP’s scheme of things in MP?

The BJP cannot afford to ignore the rumblings in its own ranks over the undue importance accorded to Jyotiraditya Scindia and his loyalists in Madhya Pradesh.
Last Updated : 13 July 2023, 06:54 IST

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Bhanu Prakash Singh, the erstwhile ruler of Narsingarh principality in Madhya Pradesh, once remarked at an informal gathering to us journalists, “The problem with Jyotiraditya Scindia is that everyone in the state recognises him but the Gwalior Maharaja doesn’t know everyone. Aur sabse badi baat yeh hai ki uske kurte mein jeb nahin hai.”

There could not have been a more apt assessment of Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia’s political credentials than this. There is no doubt that Scindia is a known face in his home state, but unlike his bete noire Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who proudly maintains that his biggest strength is that he knows Madhya Pradesh like the back of his hand, the Gwalior scion cannot make such claims. Scindia is also not known to be generous with finances, which is critical when it comes to contesting elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is bound to be mindful of Scindia’s strengths and weaknesses as it contemplates his future role in the run-up to the Madhya Pradesh assembly polls. There is growing speculation these days in the state about how Scindia would be positioned and projected in these state elections. The question is whether the BJP will treat him like any other state leader or give him a bigger role in the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit as its Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s image has taken a severe hit.

The BJP had rolled out the proverbial red carpet for Scindia when he walked out of the Congress in 2020. The reasons for this special treatment were obvious. After all, Scindia had successfully brought down the 15-month Kamal Nath government when he joined the BJP along with 22 loyalist legislators, including six ministers. An eager BJP had only been too happy to give in to Scindia’s demands then by accommodating him in the Rajya Sabha and the Union Cabinet while his supporters were given key ministerial berths in the state government.

Can it be said that Scindia enjoys the same standing in the BJP and yields the same clout as he did three years earlier to be able to drive a hard bargain for himself and his supporters who joined the BJP with him? Scindia was counted as a prominent leader when he was in the Congress, given his proximity to the Gandhi family. In Madhya Pradesh, he stood alongside seniors such as Nath and Singh. Today, he is another face in a crowd of BJP leaders which includes Chouhan, Kailash Vijayvargiya, Prahlad Patel, Narendra Singh Tomar, and several others.

The BJP must necessarily do a balancing act as it must deal amicably with Scindia, but, at the same time, it cannot afford to ignore the rumblings in its own ranks over the undue importance accorded to the former Congress leader and his loyalists. The party also must factor in the possibility of an internal rebellion or a sabotage if it is seen to be tilting too heavily towards Scindia. It cannot ignore the fact that the BJP fared poorly in last year’s civic polls in the Gwalior-Chambal region even though 15 MLAs from this belt had left for the Congress with Scindia.

BJP state leaders were already fuming when the party handed out plum ministries to Scindia’s supporters, but with assembly elections around the corner, their unhappiness is now an open secret. They are obviously worried that they may yet lose out to the ‘lateral entrants’ when it comes to ticket distribution. As it is, BJP old timers have been grumbling that they now must share power with Scindia and his followers after fighting them for years in the electoral arena.

On the other hand, the Scindia camp is also plagued with similar worries. There are reports that the BJP’s internal surveys have shown that the performance of several ministers close to Scindia has been below par and that they ought to be benched. Then there are several seats which are being claimed by both sides as their respective strongholds leading to tensions between them and, in some cases, departures from the Scindia camp. On June 15, Baijnath Singh, known to be close to the Gwalior scion, went back to the Congress three years after he joined the BJP because he was not sure if he would get a ticket. Earlier, another Scindia groupie Yadvendra Singh also walked across to the Congress.

The BJP leadership’s political skills will be put to test in the coming months. It must forge a consensus between the two groups to guard against any serious erosion from its ranks. It knows full well that the Congress is waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the fissures between its own leaders and the Scindia camp.

(Anita Katyal is a Delhi-based journalist.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's own and they do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.)

Published 13 July 2023, 06:01 IST

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