Bhopal: The name of Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is buzzing with speculation as a potential candidate for next month’s Madhya Pradesh Assembly election. His candidature aligns with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s strategy for this round of elections, which is to field a few big-name candidates in each state, such as Union Ministers and Members of Parliament with strong local connections.
In line with this strategy, the BJP will field seven MPs, including three unioFn ministers: Narendra Singh Tomar (Dimani Assembly seat), Faggan Singh Kulaste (Niwas Assembly seat), and Prahlad Singh Patel (Narsingpur Assembly seat), in the assembly election. Another surprising contender for the election is BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya (Indore 1 Assembly seat).
Of the four, Tomar, Patel, and Vijayvargiya are contemporaries of Chouhan, and they are seen as potential candidates for chief minister if the BJP wins.
Notably, the civil aviation minister is a Rajya Sabha MP and has never contested a state election. However, his name started gaining attention only after his aunt, Madhya Pradesh sports minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia, opted out of this election, citing health reasons. The 69-year-old Ms Scindia has contracted Covid-19 four times since the pandemic began.
In her absence, her nephew may be fielded either from his aunt’s Shivpuri seat or any of the two other seats in Guna – Bamori or Kolaras. All three are in the Lok Sabha segment of Guna that Jyotiraditya Scindia held from 2002 to 2014, according to a senior party functionary.
His candidature is likely to reignite his hope in the race for chief minister if the BJP come to power. Scindia missed the chance to become one of the youngest chief ministers of the central Indian state when Kamal Nath, 72, was selected for the top job in the state in 2018 by the Congress.
The billionaire heir to the one-time house of Gwalior, Jyotiraditya Scindia, declined the deputy chief minister post, just like Sachin Pilot when the Congress returned to power after 15 long years in 2018. Later, Scindia revolted and walked out of the Congress with a group of his supporters, leading to the downfall of the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government in early 2020 when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, possibly to be the chief minister if BJP forms government and wins bypolls, but here also it did not happen.
This was the second time that a member of the erstwhile royal family missed the chief minister post in the state. In 1989, Madhavrao Scindia, his father, a Union Minister (Railways), was unable to secure the top post.
Political observers informs that Scindia was all set to become chief minister after Arjun Singh had to step down following his alleged involvement in the Churhat lottery scam.
A confident Madhav Rao Scindia landed at Bhopal Airport (now named Raja Bhoj International Airport) and camped in the state for two days. According to veteran journalist ND Sharma, Madhavrao Scindia was unable to secure the coveted chief minister post due to stiff opposition from Arjun Singh, “Mr Singh, in a bid to get his way at the time, even kept his MLAs ensconced in the Char Imli residence of loyalist Harivansh Singh,” he recalled.
While a report by Press Trust of India article titled “Like father 30 years ago, Jyotiraditya Scindia misses out on Chief Minister’s post” published on December 15, 2018.
Instead, Motilal Vora was appointed as the chief minister, the report added.
It was not a mere coincidence that Jyotiraditya chose to quit Congress on a particular day, as noted by political analyst and author Rasheed Kidwai. “Jyotiraditya carefully chose the day of his rebellion: his father’s seventy-fifth anniversary, March 10,” as mentioned in Rasheed’s book The House of Scindias: : A Saga of Power, Politics and Intrigue.
Jyotiraditya posted a letter on Twitter addressed to Sonia, the Congress’s interim chief, announcing his resignation from the Congress. Minutes after he posted his resignation, the Congress expelled Jyotiraditya for ‘anti-party activities,’ just as P V Narasimha Rao had expelled Madhavrao in 1996 when he had resigned from the Congress, as written in the author’s book in the chapter titled Jyotiraditya Scindia: The Ambitious Gwalior Royal‘ on page 164.
Political observers also claim that there is no other leader of Scindia’s stature in the Gwalior-Chambal region. The Gwalior-Chambal region played a significant role in bringing the Congress to power in 2018 and has now contributed to the party’s decline in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress won 26 out of 34 seats in last assembly polls. Nearly five years later, both parties are almost evenly matched in the Gwalior-Chambal region. The Congress’s tally here has fallen to 17, while the BJP has increased its strength from a meager 7 to 16 after the by-polls in 2020.
While Scindia has not made it clear whether he will contest the Assembly election, he strongly reacted when a section of the media claimed that he was unwilling to contest in the upcoming Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh after his meeting with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at his residence. Scindia loyalist and State BJP spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi dismissed this news as “completely baseless and fake.”
So far, the BJP has named 136 candidates, and the Congress party has declared the names of 144 candidates for next month’s Madhya Pradesh Assembly election. The Assembly has 230 seats, meaning that the BJP has 94 and the Congress has 86 more decisions to make. Both parties are likely to release the names of candidates during the Navratri season, which began on October 15.
The party has sent the message that the BJP will contest ‘unitedly’ under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not on the face of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (an MLA from Budhni assembly seat).