New Delhi: For Congressmen growing impatient while waiting for rewards to come their way, Sonia Gandhi had some reassuring words: “Congress mein der hai, andher nahin. Queue lambi ho sakti hai, lekin sabka turn aata hai (There is delay in the Congress, but not darkness. The queue may be long but everybody’s turn comes).” That was at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session at Burari in Delhi in 2010.
Jyotiraditya Scindia might have got tired of waiting for an appropriate reward — chief ministership — before he decided to resign from the party Monday and join the BJP two days later. His former colleagues in the Congress believe he never had to stand in that queue.
Party spokesman Pawan Khera says Scindia got “eight promotions” in his 18 years in the party: Congress tickets to contest Lok Sabha elections; induction as minister of state in 2007 and then promotion as MoS (Independent charge) in 2012; Madhya Pradesh Congress campaign committee chief in 2013 and 2018; chief whip in the Lok Sabha in 2014; Congress Working Committee (CWC) member; and, general secretary in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh in 2019.
Enough key BJP leaders in MP
Now that Jyotiradtya Scindia has jumped ship, the question doing the rounds in political circles is: Can the BJP give him what the Congress couldn’t?
He is likely to be inducted as a Cabinet minister in Narendra Modi government. It’s, however, a well-known fact that Scindia’s ultimate ambition is to become the chief minister of his home state, the undisputed leader or numero uno in Madhya Pradesh politics. There are two reasons why it’s not going to be easy for Scindia to realise that ambition.
First, there is a question mark on his acceptability by the entrenched BJP leadership in the state. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is likely to become the chief minister if the BJP is able to unseat the Kamal Nath government. Chouhan is unlikely to cede his space any time soon. At 61, he has a lot of politics left in him. Even if the central BJP leadership were to go for a succession plan and project a new face in Madhya Pradesh in 2023 assembly polls, there are many contenders within the party — Amit Shah’s trusted lieutenant Kailash Vijayavargiya being just one of them.
Even in the Scindia family’s pocketborough of the Gwalior-Chambal region, there are many veteran BJP leaders who have been fighting against the Congress for decades and may not be inclined to accept Scindia’s tutelage — to name a few, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, former state ministers Narottam Mishra and Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya, and MP and former state BJP chief Prabhat Jha.
Pawaiya, for instance, started his journey as an RSS swayamsevak in 1973 and went on to become a minister in the Chouhan government. He was defeated by Pradyuman Singh Tomar in the 2018 assembly election. Tomar, who has no qualms touching Scindia’s feet, was made civil supplies minister in Kamal Nath government. He is one of the six ministers — Scindia loyalists — who have resigned.
Will Pawaiya watch from the sidelines and help Tomar in getting re-elected, if he were to contest again? Unlikely. Prabhat Jha was demanding action against Scindia barely two months back, accusing him of grabbing government land.
State of defectors in BJP
Second, the BJP hasn’t been very rewarding to defectors, except some rare ones like Assam minister and former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is virtually running the party affairs in the entire North-East. Hundreds of others joined the BJP with a lot of fanfare only to fall by the wayside sometime later.
Ahead of 2014 Haryana assembly election, prominent Jat leader Choudhary Birendra Singh had joined the BJP and was given a Rajya Sabha berth and made a Cabinet minister. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP gave a ticket to his son. After the Haryana assembly election last year, Singh was asked to vacate his Rajya Sabha seat, about three years before his term was to end.
Former Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda joined the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Odisha assembly elections and was appointed vice-president — virtually a ceremonial post — and spokesman. Panda was Rajya Sabha MP from 2000 to 2009 and in the Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2019. After he lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP hasn’t brought him into the Rajya Sabha, not to speak of making him a minister at the Centre or projecting him as the party’s face in Odisha.
Choudhary Birendra Singh and Panda were still fortunate as one became a minister while the other is visible on party fora. There is a long list of defectors who vanished from the political scene after joining the BJP — former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy, former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, former Union minister S.M. Krishna, former Rajya Sabha chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita, former MP Sanjay Sinh, and Alpesh Thakor, among scores of others.
Political turncoats did become BJP chief ministers in the Northeast but that was because the party did not have much of a cadre base there.
When Tom Vadakkan, a trusted lieutenant of the Nehru-Gandhi family, joined the BJP ahead of the last Lok Sabha elections, he dominated TV headlines for days. Nobody has heard of him since then. Of course, many of them were paper tigers with no mass base whatsoever.
Jyotiraditya Scindia has a much bigger political stature than most of these defectors and his family has also had close ties with the BJP — and the Jana Sangh in the past — but the BJP’s record of promoting ‘imports’ from other parties is not very inspiring.