The longstanding family feud is not about different political ideologies but over the inheritance of the vast Scindia estate.
Whatever their public posturing, Jyotiraditya Scindia’s two aunts in the BJP, Vasundhara Raje and Yashodara, are not exactly thrilled about their nephew joining the party. The longstanding family feud is not about different political ideologies but over the inheritance of the vast Scindia estate. It was not Scindia’s aunts but his in-laws from the Gaekwad royal family of Baroda, Gujarat, who opened a channel for him with Narendra Modi. Amit Shah backs the anti-Vasundhara Raje faction in Rajasthan, while Yashodara was marginalised as a minister by Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh. An additional incentive for Jyotiraditya’s defection may have been a government bungalow in Lutyens Delhi, preferably 27, Safdarjung Road. This was the Scindia family house for over three decades, allotted first to Madhavrao Scindia back in the 1980s. It was retained by the Scindias even when no member of the family was a minister. The bungalow is currently allotted to HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Meeting no one
While entering Parliament House, NCP leader Supriya Sule congratulated Rahul Gandhi for two recent Congress appointments. Rahul refused to take credit, saying, “I am not making appointments. I am not meeting anyone.’’ A journalist standing nearby suggested that Jyotiraditya Scindia might have been disillusioned by his lack of accessibility. After pausing a moment, Rahul protested, “Jyotiraditya was the only guy who could walk straight into my house. We were in college together.’’
If Shivraj Singh Chouhan returns as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, it signifies that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have shed their longstanding hostility towards him. After the Madhya Pradesh elections in December 2018, Chouhan had been confident that he could still manage to form the government since the difference between the Congress and BJP was a wafer-thin five seats. But even before the final results were announced, Modi conceded defeat and rejected Chouhan’s proposal to cobble together a majority. Though Chouhan indicated he wanted to remain active in state politics, the BJP leadership appointed Gopal Bhargava as Assembly party leader. The Modi-Shah duo has not forgiven Chouhan, propped up by LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, for briefly challenging Modi as an alternative OBC face to lead the BJP in 2014. In settling scores with Chouhan in 2018, Shah allowed a canny Kamal Nath to bring around more legislators. Jyotiraditya Scindia’s revolt provides a fresh opportunity for the BJP, which is this time backing Chouhan, who is also close to the RSS. Relations between Shah and Chouhan thawed after the Delhi elections and the fall from grace of BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, Chouhan’s biggest detractor.
Missing sane voices
Prime Minister Modi’s fury over communal violence in Delhi was not just about the riots per se, but that it happened during US President Donald Trump’s visit. The government’s media minders, whether from the ministry of external affairs, the PMO or the BJP, failed miserably in controlling the narrative in international media. The buzz in political circles is that the Shah-Modi team rode high only as long as there was a seasoned and media-savvy Arun Jaitley to advise the duo about impending pitfalls and to soften criticism. The present media spokespersons simply preach to the converted and ignore criticism. After Jaitley’s death last August, the BJP has blundered from one crisis to the next. Sushma Swaraj’s absence is also missed.
The Raj Thackeray family is cursing itself for scoring two self-goals. Raj introduced struggling journalist Sanjay Raut to the Thackeray family. Raut took over as the powerful executive editor of Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana and eventually propped up the easy-going, laid-back Uddhav against Raj, who had aspired to be party chief for years. Raj’s sister Jayawanti introduced her colleague at LIC, Rashmi Patankar, to Uddhav and the two ended up married. Rashmi turned out to be the ambitious one in the partnership, who pushed her husband to take the chief minister’s chair. Now Rashmi has taken over as Saamana editor. Her sister’s son Varun Sardesai is a key figure in the Sena youth wing and is also aide to his cousin Aaditya. Even Rashmi’s brother Sridhar Patankar plays an active role in Sena affairs.
There have been two women Lok Sabha Speakers, Meira Kumar and Sumitra Mahajan, but it’s Om Birla who has done the most to promote women MPs. The current Lok Sabha has a record 78 women and Birla has ensured that each got an opportunity to speak in the House. Some women were hesitant but Birla encouraged them.