Bhopal: Coronavirus fears notwithstanding, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made sure hundreds gathered at its Bhopal headquarters to accord a spectacular, rockstar-like welcome to its latest member — Jyotiraditya Scindia.
From flower-showers and firecrackers to music, dance and drum beats, the BJP ensured Scindia’s “ghar wapsi” was nothing short of a festival. A grand spectacle is what the BJP intended — it was as much a way of emphasising the significance of this senior Congress leader and Gandhi-family confidant switching sides, as it was to celebrate what many workers now see as the imminent return of a BJP government in Madhya Pradesh.
On Thursday, the BJP picked Scindia as its Rajya Sabha nominee from Madhya Pradesh.
Party workers who had waited for hours were upbeat and enthusiastic. The atmosphere was euphoric, and Scindia himself was effusive in his praise for Narendra Modi’s BJP in his dramatic, impassioned speech.
The grand spectacle
“The kind of welcome Trump got in Ahmedabad is what Maharaj ji is receiving in Bhopal,” said Purushottam Goyal, a BJP worker from Ujjain.
Goyal’s words, dramatic as they may be, describe in a nutshell how the BJP pulled out all stops to lay the proverbial red carpet for the Scindia scion.
Hundreds of party workers were made to gather at around 3pm, even though Scindia wasn’t expected to reach the party headquarters before 5pm. The former Guna MP, however, reached only around 6:30 pm, after a roadshow from the airport to the party office.
The BJP office was all about fun and frolic in its wait for Scindia. There were drums at the entrance, a dais with musicians inside, and another with elaborate costume-clad dancers performing. A.R. Rehman’s Oscar-winning ‘Jai Ho’ and evergreen ‘Mere desh ki dharti’ were among the hits blaring from loudspeakers. There were chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, and even a cheesy line like ‘Kamal Nath ki chhutti ho li (Kamal Nath is set to be dismissed), Happy Holi’.
With time, workers — spread across the campus from outside the main gate to the terrace and balconies — seemed restless and decided to click selfies to keep themselves entertained.
As Scindia arrived, with former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan walking to the gate to greet him, a loud cheer erupted amid what seemed like a dangerously near-stampede situation.
Nobody quite seemed perturbed about the fact that until a few days ago, Scindia was in the enemy camp and had fought one election after another launching bitter attacks against the BJP and its leadership.
BJP karyakartas had gathered from across the state, and were as excited about Scindia’s entry as the prospect of Kamal Nath’s Congress government falling and Chouhan coming back to power.
“We are all very excited. Mamaji (Chouhan) will come back as CM. On top of it, Jyotiraditya Scindia has joined us — he is a good person and a true patriot. BJP is in his blood because his grandmother was also with us,” said Babita Yadav, a BJP worker for six years, from Budhni.
“BJP welcomes this youth leader into its family. The party will gain from his presence and he will prosper here,” said Nitin Narvariya from Ashta.
Many BJP workers believe the combination of Scindia’s youth image and BJP’s politics will be an asset.
“I have always been impressed by Jyotiraditya Scindia but have believed in BJP’s ideology. Today when both have come together, I am thrilled,” said Anil Sharma, another party worker.
What the leaders said
Chouhan delivered a melodramatic, entertaining speech that seemed straight out of an election campaign, terming it a “historic day” and constantly taking jibes at Kamal Nath.
“My contest was always with you,” Chouhan said, addressing Scindia. “We never thought somebody else would come from behind and sit on the chair. Someone, who has nothing to do with Madhya Pradesh… Kamal Nath has made Vallabh Bhavan a den of middlemen.”
Drawing parallels between the mythological characters of Raavan and his brother Vibhishan and Nath and Scindia respectively, Chouhan sought to drive home the point that the BJP had managed to rope in a disgruntled insider from the Congress.
Scindia’s speech was as full of histrionics as Chouhan’s.
Heaping praise on the BJP, Scindia said he considers himself lucky that his entry into this “family” happened with the blessings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah & party president J.P. Nadda.
“Whether it is Vajpayee, Modi, my grandmother or my father, our aim has not been power or politics, but serving the people,” the former Congress MP claimed.
Drawing parallels between Chouhan and himself, and looking to project an image of a people’s leader, Scindia said: “If there are two leaders in MP who don’t use ACs in their car, it is Shivraj and Jyotiraditya Scindia.”
As he promised to give his “blood and sweat” to the party, the former Union minister said his only aim was to win the hearts of BJP workers. Casting himself in the BJP mould in no time, Scindia ended his speech with the customary ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’.
Scindia, who kept referring to himself in third person, much like Modi does, gave the crowds exactly what they wanted — unbounded praise for the BJP, an underlying sentiment of resentment towards the Congress, and lots of fiery one-liners.
BJP workers lapped it all up, perhaps believing this had made their over three-hour-long wait worthwhile.