The Side Effect of Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Exit from the Congress Party

The Side Effect of Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Exit from the Congress Party

Jyotiraditya Scindia is the son of congress leader late Madhavrao Scindia and grandson of BJP stalwart late Vijaya Raje Scindia. He started his political carrier at an early adulthood after the untimely demise of his father. Scindia is a four-time MP and served as a minister in both UPA governments headed by Man Mohan Singh. He is a grass-root leader of national profile and is a young and emerging politician with wide support base in Madhya Pradesh. Scindia was not only the confident of Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi but also his close friend who could walk in his house anytime. He was in college with Rahul Gandhi. He was handpicked for the party’s revival in Utter Pradesh and was given the responsibility of Western UP whereas, Priyanka Gandhi was given charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Prior to the last Madhya Pradesh assembly election Congress, high command made him chairman of the election campaign president and Rahul Gandhi had assured Scindia that he would be under consideration for chief ministership after the polls. With his hard work and dedication, the Party was able to dislodge the BJP from power after 15 years.

Congress High command, however, opted for Kamal Nath over Scindia. This move of High command (Sonia Gandhi), sent a wrong signal among many young leaders in the party and it attributed to Sonia Gandhi’s reluctance to make a young leader CM who might one day outshine her son and emerge as his challenger. However, he managed to get six of his loyalists to join the government but had no say in the state government.

After Kamal Nath became chief minister he retained the post of state Congress president. Two-time former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, whose son was inducted in the Kamal Nath ministry started reinforcing his stature in state politics. The duo monopolised the power pyramid in the state and slowly started cornering Scindia from both state and national politics.

Scindia’s discontent grew further when he was appointed the All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of western Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He had no option but to focus on Congress’ election strategy in western UP, leaving the campaigning in Guna to his wife. This resulted in Scindia’s crushing defeat in Lok Sabha election just five months after the Congress had formed the government in Madhya Pradesh.

It was all the more humiliating not only because he lost from his stronghold by a massive 1.2 lakh votes, but the winner was a relatively lightweight BJP candidate, Krishna Pal Singh Yadav, a former Congressman who quit the party just a few months before that. There were rumours back then that Scindia might leave the Congress but he put all such speculation to rest by continuing with the party responsibilities given to him.

After his defeat in the Lok Sabha election the high command made no move to pacify him. Instead, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary in-charge of eastern UP, took over making party appointments across the state, without even bothering to consult Scindia.
Peeved with his marginalisation in the party Scindia tried to reach out to Sonia Gandhi for redressal of his grievances but a meeting never materialised. It is rumoured inside the party that a weak central high command could not interfere with the function of old guards and Scindia’s grievances were simply overlooked. It was also reported in media that Scindia even repeatedly tried to meet his old friend and mentor Rahul Gandhi for help but the latter refused to meet him. However, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has dismissed reports that he had refused to meet Jyotiraditya Scindia despite the latter’s repeated attempts.

Congress high command’s prevarication over his nomination to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh further peeved him. Things had not been hunky-dory since and enraged with his marginalization in the Congress, Scindia met Amit Shah and then the two leaders went to the prime minister’s residence where they held talks for over an hour. Soon after Scindia quit the party he has nurtured for the last 18 years. “I can say with confidence that the aim of public service is not being fulfilled by that party (Congress). Besides this, the present condition of the party indicates that it is not what it used to be,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia after tendering his resignation.

Scindia took the decision to sever his ties with the Congress on the day of his father Madhavrao Scindia’s 75th birth anniversary. Scindia’s decision to leave the Congress was followed by the resignation from 21 party MLAs loyal to him, bringing the Kamal Nath government in MP to the brink of collapse.

Sonia Gandhi, however, immediately expelled him from the Congress for “anti-party activities”, as the crisis was looming over the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh deepened.

As the state appeared to go the Karnataka way, all eyes were on Congress top-brass including Rahul Gandhi who was tight-lipped over the unfolding crisis.

Deserting Congress by Scindia had far-reaching effect and leaders from different parties expressed their comments and sentiments.
Senior Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh was first to break his silence on Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the party. Reacting on his decision to rebel and join the rival BJP, Digvijaya Singh said that Jyotiraditya Scindia is like his son, “My son has betrayed me.”

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said “Decision taken by Jyotiraditya Scindia is unfortunate. In Maharashtra, our coalition will last for five years.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot accused Scindia of betraying the trust of people and ideology, and said, “People like him cannot thrive without power and the sooner they leave, the better it is. Such opportunists should have left the party much earlier. Congress party gave him so much for 18 years. Mauka aane pe maukaparasti dikhai hai. People will teach him a lesson.”

Congress parliamentary party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that ideology did not matter to Scindia, and claimed that “political convenience” and “personal ambition” played a major part in his decision to quit the party.

Leaving the Congress was followed by deserting the party by nearly 20 MLAs of his camp. Moreover, the Supreme Court had ordered a floor test by 5 pm on Friday March 20. In absence of majority in the assembly Kamal Nath appears to have calculated that resigning and projecting himself as martyr may be politically more prudent than facing the floor test with sure and humiliating defeat. Obviously, he met the Governor and put up his resignation at about 2pm. Undoubtedly, the loss of MP exemplifies a big setback for the Congress in the heartland.

The entire episode depicts clear message to Congress high command that party must do a serious appraisal of its shortcomings. The party has not only failed miserably to win Lok Sabha elections, it is also facing internal crisis and groupism. The apparent reason behind this state of affair is a weak central leadership and a rampant factionalism at state level. Further, there is lack of vision and incentive to keep the legislators in the party fold particularly when crisis comes.

Deserting congress by a senior leader like Jyotiraditya Scindia’s will hurt the Gandhi’s more than any other defections from the party in the recent past. The young Scindia was not just another loyal Congress leader, rather over the years, he had become more like a family to the Gandhi siblings, Rahul and Priyanka.

What is true of MP is equally relevant in neighbouring Rajasthan, where again a gen-next leader such as Sachin Pilot has been marginalized by a domineering Ashok Gehlot, another staunch representative of the Congress old order. Both Scindia and Pilot may not have the political heft as compared to some senior leaders but they both possess a valuable quality in contemporary politics — they are youthful, energetic leaders who are effective communicators and speak a language that a younger demographic might identify with.
A disillusioned Scindia may well have opted out of the struggle altogether by taking the soft option and joining hands with the BJP; the question that must now worry the Congress is, at this rate will there be anyone to leave soon to fight the good fight?