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Statue brings Scindias together

Bhopal, Nov. 23: The gathering in Gwalior was unusual.

For one, the Congress and the BJP were sharing the dais and speaking highly of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madhavrao Scindia. For another, and more surprising, the two warring sides of the Scindia family were speaking of the need for unity.

The occasion on Monday was the unveiling of a statue of the late Madhavrao Scindia at which BJP leader Yashodhararaje Scindia seemed carried away by emotion.

“Earlier, we were together as a family but circumstances become such that differences developed. In my childhood, my brother (Madhavrao) used to carry me around on his shoulders. But 12 years ago, in the same year, I lost both my brother and mother (Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia),” she said.

Yashodhara’s words seemed to touch a chord. Jyotiraditya Scindia, her nephew and Union minister of state for power (independent charge) who was presiding over the event, could not resist a response.

“Normally, one should talk about such domestic matters at home,” he said. “But my aunt has made some observations, so I am responding publicly. Who is in the way of a (family reunion)? If anyone is stopping it, please let me know,” Jyotiraditya, about 16 years Yashodhara’s junior, said.

Heads turned as Yashodhara kept stoically silent as though avoiding any further statement in public on a family dispute. Sensing an awkward silence, BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan stepped in.

“Jyotiradityaji, don’t worry. Your aunt will not create any trouble for you. Yashodhararaje is like my elder sister. Although one should not interfere in family matters, I feel I have a certain right to do so,” he said.

Chauhan, who has a Master’s in philosophy, continued: “Everyone will remain united. There will not be a problem. But political affiliations will remain separate.”

The Scindia family have a dispute dating back to the seventies when Madhavrao chose to defy his mother, Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, and join the Congress. Vijayraje was a founder member of the Jan Sangh and a bitter critic of Indira Gandhi during Emergency. Some cynics, however, saw the mother-son divide as a clever ploy to protect the Scindia legacy regardless of differing political ideologies.

Jyotiraditya is now the Congress MP from Guna while Yashodhara is the BJP MP from Gwalior. Her sister, Vasundhara, and nephew Dushyant are BJP MPs from Rajasthan. The political acrimony among the Scindias is such that the two sides avoid sharing a public platform.

On several occasions, aunt and nephew have clashed over development projects in Gwalior. In 2007, they crossed swords when Jyotiraditya opposed a move to install a 750m ropeway between Phool Bagh and Gwalior Fort on the ground that it would cause environmental damage to the fort.

When Praful Patel was Union civil aviation minister, he visited the city with Jyotiraditya to inaugurate a Delhi-Gwalior-Bhopal flight. Yashodhara had then complained to the then Lok Sabha Speaker that Jyotiraditya was made guest of honour when she was the MP from Gwalior.

After the statue-unveiling yesterday, Mata Din, an old timer from the Lashkar area of Gwalior, said he had loved the way Yashodhara and Jyotiraditya conducted themselves. “They represent our common heritage. I wish the two sides come together,” he said.

During the programme, Chauhan said the “soil of Gwalior” was such that it motivated stalwarts like Vajpayee, late Vijayaraje Scindia and late Madhavrao Scindia to serve people.

Jyotiraditya said Chauhan had shown the kind of “largeheartedness” that should be ingrained in every public servant.