As the year comes to an end, how close is Jyotiraditya Scindia to realising any of the dreams that propelled the largest exodus of MLAs from Congress party in Madhya Pradesh and brought down an elected government? Is Scindia – who has lived a charmed political life having spent 17 of his 18 years in public life in parliament –going to be a Union minister again?
It’s a question which must be exasperating Sushil Modi as well, and even though totally unrelated as their circumstances are, they are both equally impatient for a cabinet reshuffle soon.
Scindia’s supporters certainly want some urgent answers. None more so than former health minister Tulsi Silawat and former transport minister Govind Singh Rajput – the prime movers behind the rebellion of 21 Scindia supporters whose resignations brought down the Kamal Nath government in March. Both of them found no place in Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet even though they won the November by-elections. Three other Scindia cabinet ministers lost but two of them continue to be retained by Chouhan.
At the moment nine Scindia campers are in Chouhan’s cabinet, but three of them face corruption charges after the Income Tax department raids on Nath acolytes during the general elections of May 2019. Their names allegedly appear in confiscated diaries and papers which record them as having received money from Nath’s manager Pravin Kakker.
It is likely that they will be dropped sooner than later. That’s how the BJP works. If the names have been revealed by a central agency, it is a warning sign that those named — Pradyuman Tomar, Bisahulal Singh and Rajvardhan Singh — face an uncertain future.
On the other hand, Chouhan is playing a clever game by not including Silawat, a Dalit MLA, as he believes promoting Imarti Devi, another Dalit, would be a better bet. Imarti Devi lost the by-elections from Dabra which is a safe Congress seat. Chouhan would like to promote Imarti to not only damage Congress in their backyard but also because she is an easier and less tricky customer than Silawat.
Insiders in the BJP believe that a few Scindia supporters are finding it difficult to fit into the BJP’s scheme of things. It is equally true that they are also not being welcomed by established leaders whose constituencies they have usurped. It’s a difficult ride ahead for them, but not as difficult as for their leader, perhaps.
Jyotiraditya is fast learning that he is not as big a mass leader as Congress projected him to be. Not only did three of his ministers lose but three other MLAs who directly influence Gwalior region have also lost the by-elections. Inside the state BJP he is not even considered among the first five leaders as Chouhan, Narendra Singh Tomar, Vishnu Sharma, Narottam Mishra and Thawarchand Gehlot take priority over him. Unfortunately for him, Tomar and Mishra are from Gwalior region and have already carved out positions for themselves over the years.
Scindia has also opted to go to the Rajya Sabha, so his Lok Sabha seat of Guna will in all probability leave the family fold forever. BJP is unlikely to prefer another candidate from the Scindia family because of its professed stand against dynastic politics. His aunt Yashodhara Raje has already represented Gwalior in the Lok Sabha but has since switched to state politics and continues to be a minister in the Chouhan cabinet, so anyone from his immediate family is unlikely to get a BJP ticket.
Then there are several others like Gopal Bhargava and Jayant Malaiya who have been ministers for several years under Chouhan and have their own niche within the BJP system. They are ostensibly quiet but their unhappiness with usurpers and latecomers at the same table is understandable. At the time of the switchover, Scindia had promised his supporters that to “settle them” would be his first priority but so far the two seniormost amongst them remain in limbo.
By most accounts and reports it appears Scindia had been promised a cabinet rank by the Modi-Shah combine. It’s more than nine months now and nothing has come of it. Judging from past record of the duo, Scindia will in all probability get what has been promised but till then he will have to just twiddle his thumb as Chouhan does not even invite him for state functions and important party confabulations.
Meanwhile, agriculture minister Tomar is growing in stature within the party as he is sticking gamely to the Centre’s stand on the farmers’ issue. Scindia, even as cabinet minister, will be second fiddle to him. At the state level it will be home minister Mishra who will assert himself. From the opposition benches there’s always the veteran Digvijaya Singh and his son Jayvardhan who will be only too happy to enjoy his discomfort. He will be hoping 2021 turns out better.