The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Royal tug of war over ropeway
- Gwalior old boy Menon wades into Scindia battle

Bhopal, Sept. 1: A proposed ropeway from Gwalior fort has pitted the royal aunt and nephew against each other, with foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon reportedly throwing his weight behind Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Jyotiraditya, the Congress MP from Guna, is opposed to the civic body’s move to have a 750-metre ropeway from Phoolbagh garden to the fort. He believes that the project, with its eight terminals, would cause environmental damage to the fort.

Aunt Yashodhara, the BJP’s member of Parliament from Gwalior, contests this and says the ropeway would add glamour and beauty to Gwalior and promote tourism.

The former state tourism and culture minister is busy lobbying the Union tourism ministry and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Delhi for the ropeway, whose contract could go to the Calcutta-based Damodar Ropeways Construction.

Menon, a former student of Gwalior’s Scindia School, is believed to have written to state chief secretary Rakesh Sahni that the ropeway would “affect” the school compound and the principal’s residence.

Government sources said chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is firmly behind Yashodhara.

The ASI, whose director-general Anshu Vaish is an IAS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, will meet in Delhi on September 5 to decide whether it should approve the project.

ASI officials said that prima facie, the project does not appear to violate ASI norms on construction near protected monuments. The Gwalior fort is not a protected structure but some of the buildings inside it are.

Madhya Pradesh politics is no stranger to battles within the Scindia family. Earlier this year, Yashodhara had contested the Gwalior Lok Sabha bypoll against Jyotiraditya’s wishes.

The nephew had campaigned extensively for the Congress candidate but the aunt won the election, causing him acute embarrassment.

Yashodhara then took her son, MTV radio jockey Akshay, on a political orientation course at Shivpuri Assembly segment, which falls in Jyotiraditya’s Guna parliamentary constituency. Akshay visited several villages and was projected as a future leader.

In the state’s political circles, the presence of Akshay in Shivpuri was seen as a threat to Jyotiraditya.

Although Akshay did not contest the Shivpuri Assembly by-election, Jyotiraditya made the vote a prestige battle. He campaigned in the constituency for over a fortnight, and the Congress won.

The Jyotiraditya camp made sure that Yashodhara did not stay at the Scindia Kothi, which used to serve as a guesthouse for any Scindia visiting Shivpuri.

Scindia family retainer Sardar Angre says the nephew and the aunt are not on talking terms. Both the BJP and the Congress are convinced that the royal feud would intensify in the run-up to next year’s Assembly polls, when Jyotiradtiya fancies his chances of leading the Congress charge.

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