Angre, master of palace intrigue

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By The Telegraph Online in Bhopal
  • Published 15.03.08

Bhopal, March 15: Sardar Sambhajirao Angre was loved or hated but seldom ignored.

The self-proclaimed Rasputin, confidant, adviser and “loyal” friend of the late Vijayaraje Scindia died in Gwalior today following renal failure. He was 85.

A first cousin of Vijayaraje’s husband, Jivajirao Scindia, Angre was a towering figure in the Jan Sangh and then the BJP and was a master of palace intrigue. He began crafting Vijayaraje’s political career after Jivajirao’s death and was always by her side, in tweeds and carrying a gun.

The family retainer with a reputation as a hunter fought many battles with Vijayaraje’s son Madhavrao, who was 16 when his father died, and grandson Jyotiraditya over personal and property issues.

On the 14h day of Vijayaraje’s death in January 2001, Angre claimed she had left instructions not to allow Madhavrao to touch her body. Madhavrao, who died in an air crash in September the same year, had all along accused him of creating a divide between mother and son.

In an interview, Angre explained his relations with Vijayaraje. Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar would give away alms to the needy everyday, he said. One day, she found her only son, still a boy, putting poisonous scorpions into the shoes of her subjects. Ahilyabai ordered her son’s execution and made her general, Yashwant Rao Holkar, the next maharaja. Angre was equating Vijayaraje with Ahilyabai.

But he denied causing the rift. “Did I ask Madhavrao to disappoint his mother?” he said, seldom missing an opportunity to point out that Madhavrao “fled” to Nepal during the Emergency. He continued addressing Madhavrao and then Jyotiraditya as “maharaja”, though.

In her autobiography, Vijayaraje said: “Sambhajirao came to my husband to offer his services in the spirit of the historical ties between our families. From that day on, he became my husband’s most trusted confidant.... I, too, soon began to call him by his nickname ‘Bal’....”

Angre has left behind a house in Delhi, another on the Scindias’ Gwalior estate, a flat in Mumbai, a mango plantation, a stud farm and ancestral property near Indore.

Other possessions the Scindias were involved in a battle for with Angre include an emerald Shiva lingam, gold tongue scrapers, a vault full of jewellery, a silver bathtub set on a leaping fish, over 200 acres of prime real estate in Delhi and a Viennese crystal chandelier so heavy that a ramp was built on the roof where it would be hung so that elephants could walk over it to test the roof’s strength.

He is survived by daughter Chitrangadaraje and son Tulajirao.

The Scindias offered no comment on his death.