Bhopal: The much-advertised entry of now former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may appear to be a coup, but could be fraught with far more complexities and tricky internal dynamics than the party has bargained for.
Three-time Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and BJP stalwart Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘Vibhishan’ remark about Scindia during a passionate speech Thursday, as well as Scindia’s seemingly innocuous but equally significant statements, give more than a glimpse into the times to come.
“As the famous saying goes, do talvar ek mayan mein nahi ho sakti (two swords cannot be in one sheath). This is precisely the case here — both Chouhan and Scindia are tall leaders with unbound ambitions, but BJP MP can have only one king. Yesterday’s event in Bhopal to welcome Scindia was grand and designed to send out a loud message to the Congress, but the speeches of both these leaders reflected their own politics and ambitions,” said a senior BJP leader in the state, who did not wish to be identified.
Chouhan and Scindia gave dramatic, impassioned speeches, showering praise on each other. But there was as much to read between the lines.
The deeper meaning
Although in a politically clever and circuitous way, Chouhan referred to Scindia as Vibhishan — mythological character Raavan’s younger brother, who deserted his brother to join the rival camp.
“Kamal Nath, till we don’t destroy your Lanka of terror and corruption, we will not sit in peace. To destroy Lanka, one needs Vibhishan. Today Jyotiraditya Scindia is with us,” Chouhan said.
The reference to Vibhishan — someone who turned against his own family — is not the most flattering and for the ‘maharaj of Gwalior’, the tag of a betrayer can hardly be desirable.
Chouhan also made it a point to rub the fact in that Scindia wasn’t picked as chief minister by his party after it won the 2018 assembly polls.
“My contest was always with you. We never thought somebody else would come from behind and sit on the chair,” he said.
Scindia, meanwhile, also seems in no mood to play second-fiddle to Chouhan. He made sure he talked of himself as an equal and as a politician as rooted as the BJP stalwart.
The difference in the political image of the two leaders is starkly seen in their respective monickers — while Shivraj is the grounded ‘Mamaji’, Scindia is the elite ‘Maharaj’.
“If there are two leaders in MP who don’t use ACs in their car, it is Shivraj and Jyotiraditya Scindia,” he said.
With this, Scindia made it evident that he now wants to project a rooted and people’s leader image of himself as Chouhan enjoys— something that has been the latter’s biggest strength and the reason behind the goodwill and popularity he continues to enjoy across a cross-section of voters.
“Both leaders gave powerful speeches. Both are good orators. It was an evening of vigour. But if you look beyond the obvious, it is clear both were making their pitches as politicians and using the stage to project themselves. The competitiveness wasn’t unmissable,” said another BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
The BJP plan
For now, sources said, the party’s top leadership is clear about how it wants to handle the situation. The idea is to give Jyotiraditya Scindia a more national role, along with the Rajya Sabha seat, while ensuring Chouhan remains the king in Madhya Pradesh.
“With this arrangement, the party hopes to avoid any conflict or clash. The top command knows Shivraj is BJP’s tallest leader in the state and what won’t change,” said the second leader quoted above.
However, the sources said, it may not be as easy and seamless as it seems. Scindia has his own ambitions and his big grouse in the Congress was being sidelined by the Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh duo, and being forced to remain limited to the Gwalior-Chambal region, despite having a youth appeal across the state.