Bhopal: Former Congressman Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to the BJP has now allowed the Congress in Madhya Pradesh to “appropriate” Rani Laxmibai, one of the leading figures of the first war of Independence or the 1857 rebellion.
Congress leaders told ThePrint that with Scindia now with the BJP, it has given them the opportunity to target the party even more.
Historians accuse the Scindia dynasty of betraying the queen of Jhansi and joining hands with the British to scuttle the 1857 rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny 163 years ago. But given that the members of the erstwhile royal family were either in the BJP, Jan Sangh, or the Congress since the last many decades, political parties never really talked about the family’s alleged treachery.
But now, for the first time in decades, all politicians in the Scindia family are with the BJP, including Jyotiraditya’s aunts Vasundhara Raje and Yashodhara Raje — the latter is a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet.
In its effort to appropriate the Jhansi ki Rani, Congress in its bypoll manifesto has promised to install statues of Rani Laxmibai in the Gwalior region — where 16 of the 28 poll-bound constituencies are located, party sources said. The bypoll is scheduled on 3 November.
On Friday, State Home Minister Narottam Mishra told the local media that MP Congress chief Kamal Nath did not visit the queen’s samadhi (memorial) in Gwalior during his visit to the region last month.
But hours later, the former CM’s media coordinator and MP Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja released a photograph to prove Mishra wrong.
“Kamal Nath ji did go, but it’s true that no BJP leader barring Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya paid a visit,’’ Saluja tweeted.
गृह मंत्री नरोत्तम मिश्रा कह रहे है कि कमलनाथ जी जब ग्वालियर गये थे तब रानी लक्ष्मीबाई की समाधि स्थल नहीं गये थे।
यह है उनके झूठ का जवाब…
कमलनाथ जी तो गये थे लेकिन यह ज़रूर सच है कि जयभान सिंह पवैया के अलावा अन्य कोई भाजपा नेता उनको नमन करने नहीं गया… pic.twitter.com/BnY8BFafBA
— Narendra Saluja (@NarendraSaluja) October 2, 2020
Pawaiya, who is the former national president of the Bajrang Dal, was a bitter critic of Jyotiraditya when the latter was with the Congress, and has still not reconciled with his presence in the BJP.
Pawaiya is a key member of a local committee that organises ‘Veerangana Balidan Mela’ in Gwalior every year on a grand scale in memory of Rani Laxmibai. This year, the event was held on 18 June, but was a low-key affair in the wake of the pandemic.
‘Queen was always an inspiration for Congress’
A Congress leader, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint that with all Scindia members in the BJP, the party has “appropriated” the Jhansi Ki Rani.
“It has become easier for us now,’’ the leader admitted.
Another senior Congress functionary, however, said the queen has always been a source of inspiration for the party.
In June this year, the Congress took the lead in remembering Rani Laxmibai on her death anniversary, which the party never did before.
In 2017, when Jyotiraditya was with the Congress, CM Chouhan had talked about the 1857 betrayal.
Addressing a rally in a by-election in Bhind district, Chouhan had said: “The Ater region (Bhind district) had stood with Maharani Laxmibai and not with the British. I know that the Scindias sided with the British and persecuted the people.’’
Chouhan’s unexpected attack had upset Yashodhara Raje, then a minister in his cabinet. She had said the statement amounted to an insult to the Scindia family.
Her sister Vasundhara Raje, as the chief minister of Rajasthan, had allegedly ordered removal of a paragraph from Subhadra Kumari Chouhan’s famous poem ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ from a school textbook. The paragraph described the Scindia family as “friends of the British”.