The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Son steps out of Scindia shadow

Bhopal, July 23: He says he is his father’s son, but Jyotiraditya Scindia seems very much his own man.

As he picks his way through the complex world of politics, invoking at every turn his late father’s legacy, Scindia junior is revealing flashes of individual style — and very different from that of Madhavrao’s.

The young maharaja of Gwalior, who came into the title after his father died in an air crash, created a flutter recently when he stayed at chief minister Digvijay Singh’s official residence for two days. His father had avoided it for eight long years.

Digvijay was delighted to play host. After all, in feudal terms, it was a matter of honour as the chief minister’s principality, Raghogarh, is among several such zones in the erstwhile Scindia empire.

Jyotiraditya is said to have enjoyed his stay at Shyamla Hills, watching Charlie’s Angels on the DVD and savouring the best of Mughlai, Continental and Chinese cuisine that the vegetarian chief minister instructed his chefs to prepare. It also rained incessantly.

He then embarked on a hectic political campaign, holding public rallies, attending conventions, laying foundation stones and meeting almost everyone who matters in Madhya Pradesh politics. The contrast with his father could not have been more apparent. The late maharaja seldom ventured outside the territory that used to be under Scindia empire. His support base was always a close, well-knit band of loyalists who hardly numbered more than a dozen Congress legislators.

Jyotiraditya’s independent style has been interpreted in two ways. A section of the Congress is convinced that party chief Sonia Gandhi is preparing him for future challenges that, at some stage, may even mean taking on the all-powerful Digvijay who has so far nipped any potential challenge to his throne.

The other theory is that Jyotiraditya has decided to go public and learn a few political tricks from the man who used to be his father’s rival. In an election year, Digvijay, too, needs a powerful campaigner like him, who, apart from having a pan-Indian reach, makes a lot of sense among urban and middle-class voters.

At another level, in Madhya Pradesh politics, the idea of learning tricks of the trade from one and then using them on the same person is an old and tested practice. Digvijay owed everything to his mentor, Arjun Singh, till 1993 when he became chief minister. Arjun then watched helplessly as Digvijay won over his loyal supporters and marginalised him completely in state politics.

Arjun had himself done it to his mentor, D.P. Mishra, the cerebral chief minister who earned the sobriquet “Chanakya” much before former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao did. Mishra, father of Brajesh Mishra — the current principal secretary to the Prime Minister — died a disillusioned man after holding sway for decades.

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