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  Opinion   Columnists  19 Jul 2023  Sunil Gatade | The aunt and the nephew: BJP’s problem in Raj, MP

Sunil Gatade | The aunt and the nephew: BJP’s problem in Raj, MP

The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
Published : Jul 20, 2023, 12:19 am IST
Updated : Jul 20, 2023, 12:19 am IST

Whatever might be the reason, the BJP has so far failed to put its best foot forward either in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan.

Jyotiraditya Scindia (PTI)
 Jyotiraditya Scindia (PTI)

As the “jugalbandi” between the old uncle and the brash nephew is being played out in Maharashtra, the BJP is perplexed about how to handle an aunt and her nephew in poll-bound Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively.

It is a touchy issue and if handled in a haphazard way, the ruling party realises that it will be in the soup. It is dreading any defeat after the one in Karnataka two months back which has rattled it completely. A setback in the North, which is considered its backyard, is the last thing it wants. In both the states, however, the BJP is a divided house.

Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, 70, known as “Maharani” in political circles wants the prime spot in the desert state and to be declared the CM candidate. In MP, meanwhile, Jyotiraditya Scindia, 52, erstwhile Maharaja of Gwalior, is at sea and needs help to understand where he stands in the BJP scheme of things in the coming elections where it is facing an uphill task.

Both can make or mar the party’s prospects in their respective states. The BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh through the backdoor when Mr Scindia and 22 MLAs supporting him parted ways with the Congress, which led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath ministry in March 2020. 

At one time, the Scindias had so much influence in MP’s Madhya Bharat region that the Congress had drawn blank some half a century ago in the area when veteran Congress leader D.P. Mishra had dubbed the late Vijayaraje as “naraj mata”.

Much water has flown down the Chambal since then. In the last Lok Sabha polls, Jyotiraditya was himself defeated in his pocket borough of Guna by a local BJP leader. In the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress shifted Madhavrao Scindia to Gwalior at the last minute, resulting in the defeat of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Vasundhara is the daughter of late Vijayaraje Scindia, known as Rajmata and one of the BJP’s founders. She is the tallest woman leader in the BJP, having been Rajasthan’s chief minister twice and raring for a third term. Jyotiraditya is the son of her elder brother Madhavrao, who was a minister in several Congress governments.

Both have their reasons to worry. Vasundhara, long sidelined in state politics since she ceased to be CM five years back, was given a prime place next to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he launched the party’s “Mahajansampark Abhiyan” at Ajmer over a month back. It was a good signal for her.

But the party has not said a word about projecting her as its CM candidate. Her detractors like RLP chief Hanuman Beniwal insist that Prime Minister Modi has to repeatedly come to Rajasthan as it has failed to decide under whose leadership the Assembly polls will be fought.

Reports had it that last year BJP president J.P. Nadda had made a categorical announcement that nobody would be projected as the chief ministerial face in the Assembly election. Mr Nadda is aware of the fact that the state unit is faction-ridden and there are many aspirants for the chief minister’s post and any move to project a single person as CM face would harm the party’s electoral prospects. 

But there is no denying the fact that Vasundhara Raje is the tallest leader of the state with a massive support base. Ms Raje is also the BJP’s tallest woman leader at the national level. While one section is pushing for Ms Raje’s candidacy as CM, there is a group that believes having Mr Modi as the face of the election will serve the party better as it would nip the problem of factions and groups working at cross purposes.

A section believes that Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP could damage the BJP more than it would damage the Congress.

Another worrying feature for the BJP in Rajasthan is that the Congress has been able to get its act together by smoking the peace pipe between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his well-known detractor Sachin Pilot in the nick of time. The “forgive and forget” policy adopted by the two Congress leaders at the behest of the high command is the best thing that has happened to the grand old party when it is attempting to break the 

jinx in recent decades that saw the desert state not giving a second term to the incumbent. Mr Gehlot wants to do what Mr Kejriwal did in Delhi through a host of popular schemes that caught the people’s imagination.

In the faction-ridden Madhya Pradesh BJP, Mr Scindia is being looked down on as an outsider who is seeking his pound of flesh for “Operation Kamala” which toppled the Congress government and brought the BJP back to power. But there has been much resistance from other factions as also the loyalists in the BJP who feel that Mr Scindia’s entry has created problems in the “unified” BJP as seen in civic poll results sometime back.

Rahul Gandhi’s remark over a year back that Jyotiraditya could have become chief minister if he had stayed with the Congress had a ring of truth in it. Now several Scindia supporters have started returning to the Congress amid the growing impression that the grass is greener on the other side.

Mr Scindia’s departure has strengthened the position of MPCC chief Kamal Nath, who is backed by senior leader Digvijaya Singh amid a sense of revival among ordinary workers in the wake of the Karnataka victory. Both Mr Nath and Mr Singh want to promote their sons to the next line of leadership. They have vowed to focus more on areas under the influence of Mr Scindia to make deep inroads by the Congress.

After dithering for much time, the BJP high command made it clear that the polls in MP would be fought under the leadership of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. This has also made Mr Scindia quite uneasy.

Whatever might be the reason, the BJP has so far failed to put its best foot forward either in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. The Assembly polls are both a crisis and an opportunity for the aunt and the nephew who could be made scapegoats by rival party factions if it fails to get desired results. Only time will tell whether the BJP is its own enemy in the two election-going states, like in Karnataka. One thing is extremely clear: that a fierce fight is on the horizon.

Tags: jyotiraditya scindia, vasundhara raje scindia, kamal nath