New Delhi: Jyotiraditya Scindia is likely to become a Cabinet minister in the NDA government at the Centre and his nominee will become a deputy chief minister if the BJP manages to form the government in Madhya Pradesh, Scindia’s friends and close associates have told ThePrint.
They said Scindia had been “exploring” the option of joining the BJP for the past “two months” and the Congress high command’s prevarication over his nomination to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh was only the immediate trigger. He is set to enter the Rajya Sabha as a BJP leader now.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath, whose government is now teetering on the brink of collapse due to the impending defections of at least 22-25 Congress MLAs of the Scindia camp, didn’t help matters much.
Kamal Nath refused to reach out to Scindia and virtually kept him isolated — and even stalled the latter’s claim for the post of the state Congress chief. So much so, that senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, never known as a Scindia sympathiser, sought to convince the CM last month of the need to co-opt the young leader but Kamal Nath didn’t pay any heed, a senior Congress functionary said.
A businessperson had organised a dinner for these three leaders — Scindia, Nath and Singh — at her Delhi home last year to bring about a rapprochement. Scindia had then complained that even his recommendations for transfer of officials were being rejected. Kamal Nath was dismissive. The dinner meeting only brought more chill in their relationship.
In touch with BJP
Last week, Digvijaya Singh went to town accusing the BJP of trying to topple the party-led government. Under full media glare, he and his minister son managed to “save” the government by ‘retrieving’ eight of the 10 MLAs who had been brought to Gurugram by the BJP in preparation for the toppling of Kamal Nath government. While the Congress brass hailed Singh’s rescue act, Scindia remained in touch with the BJP.
At BJP president J.P. Nadda’s son’s reception in New Delhi on 6 March, former MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan briefed party colleagues about the developments, including Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar and Dharmendra Pradhan, among others. They left the venue together for further deliberations. Three days later, on Monday evening, Home Minister Amit Shah gave his seal of approval, clearing the deck for Scindia’s entry.
Upset with Sonia and Rahul
“It’s not just about Kamal Nath. Scindia has been upset with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi — not just because of the way they allowed him to be undermined in the party but also because he saw the Congress going nowhere under their leadership,” a Congress leader close to Scindia told ThePrint.
Scindia met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah Tuesday to formalise the terms and conditions of his entry into the BJP. A scion of the erstwhile Gwalior royalty, Scindia is no stranger to BJP leaders. His grandmother Vijayaraje Scindia had cut her political teeth in the Congress and spent a decade in the party before joining the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s precursor. Jyotiraditya Scindia spent 18 years in the Congress before shifting his loyalty to the BJP Tuesday. His father, Madhavrao Scindia, had started his political career in the Jana Sangh but had switched to the Congress later.
In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi on Monday, Scindia said, “This is the path that has been drawing itself out over the last one year.”
The path, in fact, started drawing itself out about 14 months ago, to be precise. Ahead of the MP assembly election, then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had assured him that he would be under consideration for chief ministership after the polls. As it turned out, the high command opted for Kamal Nath over Scindia, a move many young leaders in the party privately attributed to Sonia Gandhi’s reluctance to make a young leader CM who might outshine her son and emerge as his challenger.
That was exactly why, these young leaders said, Sonia kept the post of deputy leader of the Lok Sabha vacant for two years after 2017 even though Scindia was keen on it.
Rahul Gandhi had offered deputy chief ministership to Scindia after the assembly poll results were out in December 2018. Scindia declined but said he would nominate someone for the deputy’s post. Rahul Gandhi then said that in that case Kamal Nath would also nominate his second deputy.
The CM had the last laugh as Scindia gave up. He was later appointed Congress general secretary in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh — a punishment posting, in bureaucratic terms, as the party has no base there.
After he resigned, following the party’s dismal show in the Lok Sabha elections, the high command made no move to pacify him. Instead, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary in-charge of eastern UP, took over making party appointments across the state, without even bothering to consult Scindia.
Scindia was also upset with the party’s stance on many issues. “One day, he called up a young colleague, asking how could the party criticise the government’s move to nullify Article 370? He found the party’s criticism nonsensical. Both agreed to speak out publicly then,” said a Congress functionary, concluding that Jyotiraditya Scindia quit because he saw “no hope for the party or for himself in it”.