| Yashodhara Raje
Bhopal, Nov. 4: The Raj is dead, but long live the rajas and ranis! At least in Madhya Pradesh where the Scindias of Gwalior once reigned.
A state government notification has laid down that minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia can no longer be addressed as “Mrs Scindia”.
Nor will “Ms” do, and even “lady minister” isn’t respectful enough.
The proper way to address the youngest daughter of the late Vijaya Raje Scindia is the gender-neutral “Shrimant” (highness), says gazette no. FA3-35.2006/1.
Issued by the general administration department on November 1, the notification ends a long-drawn battle between Yashodhara and an influential lobby of IAS officers who had served under her.
These civil servants say the state tourism, sports and youth affairs minister is so touchy on the subject that she declines to attend functions if the invitation cards merely tag a “Mrs” to her name.
The notification has been sent to collectors, principal secretaries and government officials at every level of hierarchy.
“This is unprecedented and makes a mockery of democracy,” fumed Congress spokesman Manak Aggarwal today. The Madhya Pradesh Assembly, he said, has members from many royal families.
“What if everyone starts asking for titles and honours'” Aggarwal asked.
CPM lawmaker Ram Lakhan Sharma said he would never address Yashodhara as “Shrimant”.
“The very thought is disgusting. What does she think of herself' Does she not know that we are a democracy and there is no distinction between classes of people'”
Such talk sends Yashodhara’s blue blood boiling. “I can’t understand what all the fuss is about,” she told The Telegraph.
“I mean, why are they jumping up and down' Are they not aware of the legacy of the Scindias' Can it be taken away from us — that, too, on the soil of Madhya Pradesh, where the Gwalior empire stood for hundreds of years' All over the world and in Europe, royalty is given due recognition in society.”
The under-secretary who signed the notification has sought refuge in the nomination papers Yashodhara had filed during the 2003 Assembly polls, describing herself as Shrimant Yashodhara Raje Scindia.
Former chief minister Babulal Gaur sought to make light of the matter. “It is their family tradition. If you do not like it, address her as ‘bhootpurva shrimant’ (former highness).”
Old-timers recalled that although Yashodhara’s late brother Madhavrao, a Union minister and Congress MP for years, did not insist on royal honorifics, neither did he mind being addressed informally as “his highness”.
When his son Jyotiraditya, a Congress MP, addresses meetings in the family’s former fief that now makes up 16 districts, he often refers to the audience as “my prajas (subjects)”.
Whenever any member of the family stands for election — for whichever party — an appeal to vote for them goes out from the palace to all the areas the family once ruled. The letter bears the royal insignia of the Scindias.
Yet, for all her insistence on being treated like a royal, Yashodhara had fallen in love with a commoner and married him defying her brother and mother.
She moved with her husband to the US where she lived the life of an ordinary citizen, even queuing for groceries.
After the marriage broke up, she returned to India to be at the side of her mother, a BJP member of Parliament, during her last days. She became a state minister in December 2005.
Her elder sister Vasundhara is chief minister of BJP-ruled Rajasthan, and her nephew Dushyant a BJP member of Parliament.