The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rivals snatch royal spotlight
(Top) Yashodhara Raje, Jyotiraditya Scindia

Bhopal, Nov. 3: In feudal-dominated Madhya Pradesh, the Gwalior palace seems to be fast losing its clout. The Scindias have traditionally dominated state politics, but are now facing a stiff challenge from rivals in the Congress and BJP.

The manner in which election tickets have been distributed by the parties has revealed the Scindias’ fast-eroding primacy. Jyotiraditya, the so-called new maharaja of Gwalior, has been completely outmanoeuvred in ticket-distribution despite being on the right side of Sonia Gandhi, chief minister Digvijay Singh and Congress general secretary Ambika Soni.

His aunt, Yashodhara Raje, has fared little better in the BJP. Having sought to undermine rival Uma Bharti, the party’s chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh, the princess has found herself marginalised. Her hopes of quitting to join the Congress were stymied by her nephew who reportedly told his party that there could be “only one Scindia in the Congress”.

Jyotiraditya was hoping to bag 40 seats for his loyalists and broaden his base beyond the Gwalior-Guna region. But Jyotiraditya struggled hard even to accommodate a dozen supporters, having to seek the Congress chief’s intervention in an exercise that left him sulking and disappointed.

The uphill battle — his first after father Madhavrao died in an aircrash two years ago — has taught him a few lessons. He has discovered that one cannot bank on those who appear to be well-wishers.

Last July, Jyotiraditya broke with convention and stayed at chief minister Digvijay’s 6, Shyamla Hills residence — something his father had never done. He also sided with Digvijay in his fight against rivals such as Kamal Nath.

But the chief minister’s affection for the young man did not translate into party tickets for the December 1 elections.

Jyotiraditya would have done well to consult veteran Arjun Singh about Digvijay’s style of functioning. Digvijay owed his nomination as chief minister in 1993 to Arjun and continued to regard the former Union minister as his mentor during the 1992-95 period when the veteran had engaged then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in a battle for supremacy.

But when Arjun quit the Congress to join the Tiwari Congress, Digvijay sided with Rao, winning over the veteran’s supporters and marginalising him completely in state politics. As a result, the Congress split of May 19, 1995 had little impact in Madhya Pradesh.

Yashodhara was looking to move to the Scindia family borough of Gwalior and hoped to prevail on the BJP to remove the Shivpuri district party chief and take a stronger stand against a local Congress strongman. Having failed to get her way — with Uma not yielding an inch —Yashodhara had announced she was quitting the BJP. But on being refused entry by the Congress, she withdrew her resignation.

Following a meeting with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu, “Yasho”, as she is popularly called, has agreed to campaign for the BJP in the Assembly elections.

With aunt and nephew having eaten humble pie, the Scindia family honour appears to depend on Yashodhara’s elder sister, Vasundhara, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan.

Poll surveys indicate it will be tough going for the BJP in the state, but Vasundhara is trying hard to prove critics wrong.

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