Opinion : What Really Happened In Madhya Pradesh

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Jyotiraditya Scindia leaving Congress and joining BJP came as a shocker to many. With him, 22 rebel MLAs also resigned from the party. Currently, there are 114 MLAs from Congress, including the 22 resigned MLAs, BJP has 107 MLAs, and there are 4 Independent, 2 Bahujan Samajwadi Party, 1 Samajwadi Party MLAs. Resigning unanimously with Scindia, they have joined BJP on 10th March 2020. Although many consider it as a sudden move, people from the political arena saw it coming for a long time. It is a very calculated move, which involves many reasons behind this huge decision. The trouble had been brewing up for the past a year or so. To be precise, it has been prevalent since the Madhya Pradesh elections in 2018.

Jyotiraditya Scindia addresses supporters during the party’s ‘Bharat Bachao’ rally at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

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ROLE OF JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA IN CONGRESS

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Scindia joined the Congress about 18 years ago, months after his father, Madhavrao Scindia, passed away in a plane crash in 2001. In the following year, Scindia won from the Lok Sabha constituency of Guna. With a margin of 4,50,000 votes in by-elections, he is re-elected in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections as well. Till 2014, he served as the Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, and Minister of State for Power in the UPA government. Apart from that, he is also a part of the; Congress Working Committee (CWC) member; and general secretary in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh in 2019.

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Despite winning in the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Guna, he lost the seat in the 2019 general elections due to the massive popularity of Narendra Modi. It was a massive setback as he lost in a traditional seat represented by generations of Scindia family cutting across party lines — despite being a popular MP.

In all, we can say that he has had about eight promotions in 18 years. However, what was the reason which made him quit the party in which he was considered a prolific member?

Rahul Gandhi with Jyotiraditya Scindia during the Winter Session of Parliament

WHY JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA LEAVE CONGRESS?

“He was the only chap in the Congress who could walk into my house anytime” – Rahul Gandhi’s imputation being that Mr. Scindia had been a personal friend with unfettered access.

It was the statement issued by him post-Scindia’s resignation. It clearly shows that Scindia was very close to him and wielded much power in the party. If the leader had taken such a reason, there has to be a strong motive behind the same. Nevertheless, what exactly pushed Scindia to the brink that he took this big decision?

There are numerous reasons as to why the Congress giant decided to join BJP.

First, Scindia did not have a good relation with Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh. His rivalry with the two is no news to anyone. Kamal Nath had never tried to reach out to him even though he was the deputy CM and was working with him in the same state. He, along with Singh and his supporters virtually stalled his claim for the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) post. Even though Digvijay Singh himself has a sore relation with the young leader, yet he tried to mend the ties between the two. It proves as to how strained the relations were. However, the senior leader did not cooperate with his colleague on the same.

Finally, if the reports are accurate, a businessperson had organized a dinner for the three leaders—the sole objective was to ensure that their ties are amended. However, the dinner eventually furthered the frictions among the three and made the matter worse.

The reason that Scindia had lashed out at the Nath government are numerous. Reasons varying from the farmer loan waiver, lack of interaction of the CM with the party workers, his failure to remove the legal cases from various workers and leaders are some of them. Not only that, but he was also upset with the lackluster performance of the government. These are some of the vital issues which gave ammunition to him and his loyalists to fire back. These issues could have been solved had the high command intervened in it tried to resolve the issues brewing between the leaders. But it’s too late now.

Second, Scindia being an ambitious person, always eyed the Chief Minister position of Madhya Pradesh. According to reports, before the state elections, Rahul Gandhi had assured him that he was being taken into consideration for the CM position. Unfortunately, the top-level members decided to opt for Kamal Nath for the same after the elections. The same had happened in Rajasthan as well when Ashok Gehlot was chosen over Sachin Pilot for the CM position. The signal was clear- the high command wanted to continue with the old guards rather than with a new set of young leaders who are considered the future of the party. Many Congress members had privately concluded the main reason behind such decisions that Sonia Gandhi was reluctant to appoint any young leader for such a high position as she did not want anyone else to outshine her son.

That could be the reason why the deputy leader of the Lok Sabha was kept vacant since 2017, although Scindia was interested in it.

Post elections, Rahul Gandhi, put forward to Scindia the deputy Chief Minister position in December 2018. He declined the same and stated that he would instead nominate someone for the same. Nevertheless, Rahul Gandhi was firm that then Kamal Nath will also have the liberty to nominate his second deputy. Eventually, it was Kamal Nath who won over the latter.

Scindia was also given the position of the Congress general secretary in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh. This position is of no significance as there is no party base there. Post the forgetful electoral performance in 2019, and he resigned from the same. No move was made by the high command to make him content. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the then general secretary in-charge of eastern UP, took over making party appointments across the state and did not bother to pick up Scindia’s brain for the same.

Third, he had perceived that the official party stance on various significant issues was not in synchronization with the emotions as the sentiments of the people. For instance, in the abrogation of Article 370, he felt the party stance to be absurd. That is the reason he did not budge in to support the government on the same by going against the party.

“Congress mein der hai, andher nahin. Queue lambi ho sakti hai, lekin sabka turn aata hai”. It means that everyone will get a chance. However, it will take time as the queue is very long. It was a statement that was quoted in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session at Burari in Delhi in 2010. Jyotiraditya Scindia had been waiting to be rewarded for a long time. However, the party has tested his patience. Not once, not twice but time and again, he had felt being pushed back by the old guards of the party. After Gandhi stepped aside to pave the way for his mother to take over the party, it was evident that the old guards like Ahmed Patel still take behind the stage decisions. They still wielded the influence in the party.

To be precise, Jyotiraditya Scindia did not see himself grow in the party. Not just him, there are several young leaders like him. Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Deepender Hooda, Jitin Prasada, and Sandeep Dikshit are some of them, to name a few. For people like him, power is an essential aspect. Loyalty, affection, and morality are mere words. Words are meaningless until power is not embedded in them.

Jyotiraditya Scindia meets Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, Thursday, March 12, 2020, a day after joining the BJP. (PTI Photo)
Jyotiraditya Scindia meets Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, Thursday, 12th March , 2020, a day after joining the BJP.

HOW BJP STRUCK A DEAL WITH JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA

A raja without power. It is what the people of Gwalior had to say when Scindia decides to leave the party. Although this was much anticipated yet, they expected him to form his party rather than join BJP. Although now that he has joined BJP, we need to analyze a crucial decision making – how the party was able to pull off such a big step without anyone even guessing about the same. It is a situation that people in the political arena would describe as the “silence before the storm” for a long time to come. It seems the Congress themselves had set the stage open and wide enough that the BJP hardly had to do anything.

Some members in the Congress state that three consecutive loss of Congress in the state was when Scindia started showing his rebellion nature. This was back in 2013. The denial of the CM position and then the MPCC post made Scidia feel as being sidelined and not been given an active role. He always felt that had all the party progress in the state be according to him; then the Congress would be able to improve its footprints over here in the state. Alas, nothing sort of this happened. Frustrated with the Nath- Singh jugalbandi, that Scindia once exclaimed: “my importance in this party is less than that of a peon serving tea.” However, according to BJP, the final nail on the coffin was the upcoming Rajya Sabha by-elections. This friction as well utilized by the BJP.

Also, there is a close rivalry between Nath, Singh, and Scindia. If the maths is right, there are 10 Kamal Nath, 10 Digvijay Singh, and 8 Scindia loyalists in the state cabinet.

These are some of the elements which the BJP had been keeping a close watch on. They knew that there is a rivalry amongst their opposition. That is when they started communicating with the leader for the past year. It further intensified in the past six months. BJP was looking for this moment only when they could strike.

Belonging to the royal family, Scindia has a hunger for power. So, it is tough for him to stay out of power and feel entirely left out. For him, power is the most crucial thing. That is why the BJP was able to convince him that he would be given the Rajya Sabha seat, and his loyal be accommodated in the Chouhan government. At the same time, it was even more essential was that his loyal MLAs also come to the other side of the field. Only then can the Nath government can be toppled.

That is why only the top-level BJP members were allowed to speak to the leader. Even Chouhan was not involved in the talks. It was a prudent decision as they did not want history to repeat itself. The blunder in Maharashtra, which left them red-faced, was not to be repeated. Only when Scindia gave the green signal that he will move to the other side of the fence, only then the Delhi high command got involved. With his dominant attitude and arrogance in its beast mode, it would not have been wise to allow any person lower than the top ranks to speak further about the same.

With all these developments, it does not mean that he will not face any hurdles. His ultimate dream of the CM position is still miles away before it is achieved. As of now, he is being given a chance to take a Rajya Sabha seat. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is still popular among the voters, is likely to become the Chief Minister if so, the BJP is successful in toppling the government.

Now that he has been formally inducted in the party, Scindia would soon find his place and not feel lost. He had been sitting on the opposite side for almost two decades. At the same time, his roots grow on the other side as well. His grandmother Vijaya Raje Scindia was one of the founders and senior leaders of Jan Sangh. It was a long wish which she had nurtured that her next generations join the BJP. Vijaya Raje joined the Jan Sangh in 1967 and was one of the founding members of the BJP. His aunts Vasundhara Raje had entered politics through BJP and has served as a three-time chief minister. Another aunt, Yashodhara Raje, is also in the BJP.

His cousin and Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant are also a BJP MP, while his aunt Maya Singh served as Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP and was a minister in Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

So, it is not like it would be very odd for him to be in this party. There have been numerous family connections in this party. It is a loss to the Congress that he bids his farewell, nonetheless, what will be interesting is to know whether this move was a benefit to BJP or not.

A recent cabinet meeting of the Madhya Pradesh government saw a heated exchange Chief Minister Kamal Nath and staunch supporters of Jyotiraditya Scindia.

WHERE DID CONGRESS LOSE?

There is a concept of raising the bar in an organization. When the leaders achieve something, that bar is further raised for the people at the lower level. This way, both the organization and its people tend to grow. However, if we implement these principles on Congress, it is evident that it is failing. Not one, but both the fronts. The leaders are not being given the space and the opportunities to grow. At the same time, the party is not able to ascertain its importance in many places. The decline is noticeable since the 2014 Lok Sabha debacle. BJP mandate has been popular among the voters in the general elections, not much in the state elections. It has been proven with state elections in significant states post-2014 and 2019.

Congress did have the scope to use this to their advantage. A lot of managerial problems within the party have prevented such a development.

First, people are not being given the position and role to play in the party. It is where meritocracy comes into the foray. It can be blamed on the dynastical politics prevailing in the party. Apart from the Scindia, there are several such dynasties in the party, such as the Shastri’s, Jagjivan Ram, Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath, Pilot, Gehlot’s, Arjun Singh and his son, and P. Chidambaram’s son. Not everyone is patient enough to wait for their dues. That is why many people have already left the party. It was the same which happened with Jyotiraditya Scindia. For instance, until Rahul Gandhi was not made the Congress President, no one was allowed to outshine him. At the same time, had junior Gandhi took a part of the UPA government, cabinet in the UPA government, things would have been different. There would have been a ray of hope that the next generation can move up the ladder. It might have helped the party. The performance of the government could have been better, and there would not have been any insecurity amongst the youngsters. It is like killing two birds with one stone.

Nevertheless, that did not happen. Neither then, nor now. It was this lack of meritocracy which is still prevailing in the party.

Second, people are not being rewarded or appreciated for the work they have been doing. Congress put a brave fight in Gujarat in 2017. It almost felt that BJP would lose its home ground. However, no one was given credit for Congress’s fabulous performance.

In both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the party was able to win after consecutive losses. Still, no due acknowledgment was made.Because of such things, the party members feel that due respect is not being given to their hard work. They consider that their growth in the party is a brink.

Third, the constant struggle between the old leaders and the young leaders has done the most harm to the party. It has become regular when their opinions or their way of working is not in synchronization. It is what Scindia had to face in his final days in the party. Neither was he able to hold the young leaders banner nor was he able to impose his influence in his home ground. The decisions related to the Chief Ministers and the Deputy Chief Ministers show how the young leaders are not able to use their capabilities to their fullest.

These are some of the reasons as to why Congress is losing. It is all because of this, that the “Operation Kamal” seems successful. BJP was able to exploit the blunders for their benefits. If the government collapses, then we can surely say that Congress lost, and BJP won even after losing the state elections.

The internal instabilities within the party need to be resolved as soon as possible. It seems like a contiguous infectious which may spread to the other states. If the needful is not done now, then we may see the party attaining its demise sooner or later.

WAY AHEAD 

Scindia has not responded to any communications from Sachin Pilot. Also, he has not reverted to Digvijay Singh. The situation ahead for Congress is going to be very difficult. There are a lot of broken pieces that the party has to gather and find a solution to fix it. Alternatively, we can say that its way too late. Nevertheless, it is better late than never. As of now, 22 MLAs have resigned. 19 MLAs of them have been sent to Bengaluru. Since their departure, they have been incommunicado. Being locked down in a hotel, they are under the close watch of Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa. The other 3 MLAs are still housed in Madhya Pradesh. DK Shivakumar, who was recently made the Congress Karnataka unit chief, has been given the tedious task of wooing the MLAs back to the Congress camp. Nonetheless, with Karnataka being a BJP ruled state, they are closely guarded.

Counteroffers have been made to lure back the defectors. Cabinet ministerial position to the MLAs, and if they are not being accommodated in the same, then they will be given powerful positions in the corporations. These are some of the offers which are being churned out.

According to further strategy, Kamal Nath has written to the governor Lalji Tandon to sack the six cabinet ministers who are Scindia loyal. However, the focus is primarily on the first time MLAs as it is easy to approach and convince them. There might be chances that vulnerable MLAs of BJP, namely Sharad Kaul and Narayan Tripathi, be approached. They have had a history of defecting from one party to another. On the other hand, the CM himself is trying to reach out to as many MLAs as possible. Unfortunately, it has not shown its effectiveness yet.

Nevertheless, the situation is worsening every day. There has been a state of under-confidence about the leadership, which is now evident and in the open. Things have not been going well for Congress within the state. Recently, during a meeting of the Congress members, one of them spoke outrightly to Kamal Nath, saying that “things cannot continue in this manner.” Take the case of MLA Aidal Singh Kansana. He is considered as a vulnerable legislator. Thus, Kamal Nath personally wanted to meet. However, he refused to meet him. The next day, he reached his residence to meet him. He was informed that the latter was not available at his residence. When this situation arose, he was also one of the MLAs who decided to resign.

Although these are small incidents, it proves how under confident the leaders are, and they do not have control over their members whatsoever. Leadership is losing control over the organization.

It looks like a lost battle, yet Congress has put a brave face and claimed that they would eventually complete the full tenure in the state. Digvijay Singh is trying to be in contact with the party workers and leaders since this crisis arose. Although he is an unpopular figure amongst the voters, nonetheless, he has control over the organization and its people. They are not able to house their legislators in their ruled state. It shows the gravity of the state of affairs.

The number game is ultimately very delicate to the Congress government at present. With the resignation, they have been reduced to a minority. It is going to be interesting to see whether the BJP be able to gather support from 4 Independent, 2 Bahujan Samajwadi Party, and 1 Samajwadi Party MLA. Presently, they are in support of the BJP government.

What lies ahead are many questions. How will this move impact the Congress, BJP, and Jyotiraditya Scindia himself? There are already several loyal and hardworking legislators working in the BJP. Some of them are favorite to the top leaders directly. In the past, there have been a handful of defectors to the BJP. Their track record has not been that great. Yes, all the leaders join the party with the pomp and ceremony.

Even so, what is more, crucial is their stay in the party. Keeping this in consideration, it does look difficult for Scindia to survive. It would be interesting to see the role he plays in the party and the position endowed upon him, given his stature and successful tenure in Congress.

For these questions to be answered, we all have to await the testimony of time to see what miracle these big feet do in the political circle.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of DU Express and DU Express does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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Apoorva Iyer
Apoorva Iyer is a student of B.A Political Science (Hons.) at Deshbandhu College, Delhi University.

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