It is nothing short of a political coup for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as the Scindia scion Jyotiraditya Scindia walked out on the Congress Party after decades of service, in what might be seen as ‘political shocker’ to the grand old party of India
Some are calling it a political bombshell of the decade. Others would call it a Doom’s Day for the Indian National Congress.
The charismatic Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh and a scion of the Scindia family, Yotiraditya Scindia on March 10 which coincides with his father’s birth anniversary, shot off a letter to Sonia Gandhi addressing her as ‘Dear Mrs Gandhi’ and telling emphatically that he had enough of the Congress’s tantrums and thus he would “look ahead at a fresh start”.
“While my aim and purpose remain the same as it has always been from the very beginning, to serve the people of my state and country, I believe I am unable to do this anymore within this party. To reflect and realise the aspirations of my people and my workers, I believe it is best that I now look ahead at a fresh start,” Scindia said in his missive ending his 18-year personal association with Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party.
He further said, “Having been a primary member of the Congress Party for the last 18 years, it is now time for me to move on. I am tendering my resignation from the primary membership of the Indian National Congress and as you well know, this is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year”.
The political operative part, however, is that this development has been drawing itself out over the last year.
This only shows how the Congress party has been functioning for over a year or so! And more importantly after the party’s second consecutive Lok Sabha poll debacle. Since the election results came in May 2019 and after Rahul Gandhi tendered his resignation as party chief enacting a badly managed drama, the Congress high command is now functioning in absentia for all practical reasons. While the drama was badly planned as Sonia Gandhi had to finally take charge as the grand old party was not prepared to look for a ‘genuine’ replacement to Sonia, the hesitation is palpable as the outfit decided to re-fashion Sonia’s designation as ‘interim President’.
The inertia is inevitable. And so some good old club in the Congress Working Committee seemed to run the affairs of the party. The timing could not have been better for the BJP and worse for the Congress! The Scindia-revolt has directly impacted the stability of a fragile Kamal Nath government and now this will leave its footprint in the outcome of Rajya Sabha polls due on March 26.
The Congress, however, refuses to learn any lesson. A trusted aide of the dynasty, Anand Sharma chose to blame the BJP instead. "The BJP has now fine tuned art of poaching and abducting MLAs and stealing governments," he said.
However, Sachin Pilot, another young face and son of Late Rajesh Pilot, did a cautious plain speaking. He tweeted: "Unfortunate to see Scindia parting ways... I wish things could have been resolved collaboratively within the party". Notably, it is strongly believed that that mother-son Sonia-Rahul duo has never been comfortable to see the rise of Scindia, and Sachin Pilot as they made Rahul Gandhi feel ‘inferior’. No wonder then the day Scindia joined BJP on March 11, Rahul recalled Leo Tolstoy to advice "patience" to Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Madhya Pradesh Games
Before Scindia’s open revolt, in some ways the state BJP leaders had reconciled themselves to winning two seats out of three for the Upper House of Parliament from the central Indian state. A meeting of the state level election committee of the BJP chaired by party state president Vishnu Dutta Sharma on March 8 had sent two preliminary names to the central leadership.
With 107 members in the Assembly, the saffron was sure to win one and would have required nine ‘additional support’ to win the second state. But the Scindia-rebellion has changed the entire game and now it would not be erroneous to presume that they could win all three.
Of course, by March 11 it was anybody’s guess that Scindia, who had lost the Lok Sabha election in 2019, would also make it to the Upper House now as a BJP nominee. In fact, the rebellion kicked off in Madhya Pradesh Congress in the run up to the Rajya Sabha polls owes its origin to bitter wars between Scindia-faction and the combined force of Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.
It is not without good reason in the first week of March that the Madhya Pradesh forest minister Umang Singhar, a known opponent of Digvijaya Singh, also dubbed the attempts to "topple" the Kamal Nath government as an insider job.
If Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath had conspired to deprive Scindia of a chance to enter Rajya Sabha, they only had underestimated the scion of Scindia dynasty and son of an equally charismatic Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia.
Shortly after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s resignation letter itself went viral on social media, 21 Congress MLAs sent letters of resignation to Madhya Pradesh Raj Bhavan. There were also reports that 9-10 more Congress MLAs could resign.
A beleaguered Chief Minister Kamal Nath claimed he would still prove his majority, but the fact of the matter is his exit looks imminent. Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was among the first to admit that Congress downfall in Bhopal was only a matter of time.
In the BJP camp, the jubilation was evident given the fact it came on the day of Holi Festival and more importantly as months of opposition stir against CAA and Delhi riots have not made any ‘negative’ impact on the issue of perception by key political stakeholders. Observers joked that royalty had kept a date with the Hindutva politics.
Were the final act too was only a matter of time? In fact, in August 2019, after the Modi government had abrogated Art 370, Scindia’s support was a surprise.
"I support the move on #JammuAndKashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into union of India. Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country's interest and I support this," Jyotiraditya Scindia had tweeted.
Talking about Congress’s internal politics, it has to be mentioned that Scindia was not happy, in particular with Rahul Gandhi after he was “denied” Chief Ministership in December 2018 despite the fact that he had ‘worked hard’ for the party’s win and apparently had solid backing of about 23-25 MLAs.
RS Polls: The Big Picture
As many as 55 Rajya Sabha vacant slots will be filled in during March 26 elections.
In subsequent round by April 12, as many as 17 more seats will be vacated in the Upper House from the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra (members will retire on 2 April), Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Haryana (12 vacancy will be created by April 9) and Congress MP from Meghalaya, Wansuk Syiem, will retire on April 12.
It goes without saying that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is more than keen to ‘increase’ their numbers in the Rajya Sabha, where the opposition domination during Modi Govt 1.0 (between 2014 and May 2019) had created enough problems for the ruling dispensation.
At present, the BJP has 82 members in the House and with its allies the total tally is 97 only. In fact, since last year, the government has been making sustained efforts to change the maths in the Upper House.
Several MPs from other parties – including the likes of Neeraj Shekhar from Samajwadi and Y S Chowdhary (and three others) from TDP quit their respective parties and joined BJP.
Calculation from across various states suggest that by April 2020, the BJP and NDA are set to gain at least 12 seats and this was prior to Scindia-revolt in Madhya Pradesh. For Congress, the Madhya Pradesh setback would jeopardise all its calculations.
In fact, about 15 Congress members of Rajya Sabha are set to retire over the next one year and the party was expecting to make up some seats from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Saffron party's Bigger Plans:
Sources say BJP's chief strategists Amit Shah and J P Nadda plan to increase their tally to at least 17 seats in the March 26 polls to the House of Elders.
The BJP, according to sources, has requisite number of legislators to win one from Himachal Pradesh, one of the two seats in Haryana, one of the three seats in Rajasthan, one of the five seats in Bihar. It is also eyeing three of the seven seats in Maharashtra, two or even three seats in Madhya Pradesh especially after Scindia revolt. Similarly, four seats in Upper House can come to its kitty from Gujarat, three seats in Assam, and one each from Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
In fact, on March 11, the BJP said one seat from Assam would go to Biswajeet Daimary for its ally Bodo People's Front.