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Coronation virus spreads in politics

Scindia and ‘subjects’ in Modi-Shah’s court

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 11.03.20, 1:30 AM
  • Updated 11.03.20, 3:43 PM
  • 4 mins read
  •  
Former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia joins the BJP in presence of party chief J.P. Nadda on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Twitter/@BJPlive

Jyotiraditya Scindia, considered a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, flew into the embrace of Narendra Modi on Tuesday, chaperoned by Amit Shah and igniting an implosion that looks set to smash the most prized state government of the Congress.

Scindia, part of an erstwhile royal family, apparently commands the support of enough MLAs to plunge the Kamal Nath government into a life-threatening crisis.

So audacious was the daylight toppling operation that BJP leaders took the resignation letters of Congress MLAs — 22 on the last count — to the Madhya Pradesh Speaker. The 22 have been despatched to BJP-ruled Karnataka for safe-keeping.

The other fallout for the Congress will be the loss of a Rajya Sabha seat as the party had been expecting two from Madhya Pradesh.

Jyotiraditya Scindia arrives to join the BJP, in presence of party chief J.P. Nadda (R), at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. After joining the BJP, Scindia criticised the Congress saying that the party is not the same as it used to be and is far removed from reality. He hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership and said the country's future is secure in his hands. He said he was hurt and distressed as he was not being able to serve the people in that party, adding that the dream which he along with his former colleagues saw for Madhya Pradesh has been shattered in 18 months.
Jyotiraditya Scindia arrives to join the BJP, in presence of party chief J.P. Nadda (R), at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. After joining the BJP, Scindia criticised the Congress saying that the party is not the same as it used to be and is far removed from reality. He hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership and said the country's future is secure in his hands. He said he was hurt and distressed as he was not being able to serve the people in that party, adding that the dream which he along with his former colleagues saw for Madhya Pradesh has been shattered in 18 months. PTI

With the exit of the 22 MLAs, the Congress’s strength has been reduced to 92. Along with the seven Independents who are on its side, the party will be five short of the new halfway mark of 104 unless Kamal Nath pulls off a miracle. The BJP has 107.

The Congress had initially hoped to pacify Scindia but the leadership was numbed to see images of the leader reaching Prime Minister Modi’s official residence along with Union home minister Shah.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (AP)

That dashed the party’s hopes of a compromise. The general secretary in charge of organisation issued a statement after meeting Sonia Gandhi that announced Scindia’s expulsion for anti-party activities.

By then, Scindia had already tweeted his resignation letter to Sonia.

“Having been a primary member of the Congress party for the last 18 years, it is now time for me to move on. I am tendering my resignation from the primary membership of the Indian National Congress and as you well know, this is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year,” Scindia wrote.

“While my aim and purpose remain the same as it has always been from the very beginning, to serve the people of my state and country, I believe I am unable to do this anymore within this party. To reflect and realise the aspirations of my workers I believe it is best that I now look ahead at a fresh start. I would like to thank you and through you all my party colleagues for providing me with a platform to have served the nation,” the letter added.

The bland expression — “time for me to move on” — to describe his perceived betrayal fuelled astonishment.

Even those who conceded that Scindia had genuine grievances and that they were not addressed felt that he had been given enormous importance by the party and had been a member of the working committee. So, he should have shown patience and maturity instead of taking the “reckless” decision of joining the BJP at this critical stage when constitutionalism was “in peril”, some Congress leaders said.

If the Madhya Pradesh government falls, it will have a debilitating impact on the Congress as clouds of instability may start gathering over Rajasthan as well.

Scindia’s exit will also send a message that the Congress’s core is imploding and a recovery may be impossible.

Amit Shah
Amit Shah Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha

Leaders like Digvijaya Singh exuded confidence on salvaging the situation but the odds are stacked against the Congress. Even if the Speaker rejects the resignations of the MLAs because they were delivered by BJP leaders, such a procedural hold-up may be short-lived, as was seen in Karnataka where the Congress-JDS government was ousted by the BJP through a similar tactic.

Not taking chances, the BJP is moving its MLAs from Bhopal to Delhi.

Chief minister Kamal Nath and Digvijaya accused the BJP of plotting the fall of the government and went into a huddle to decide a befitting response. Stressing that the BJP planned the operation with great care, Digvijaya told reporters in Bhopal: “Three chartered planes were hired to take the MLAs to Bangalore. Why did the RSS convenor of Madhya Pradesh, Ashutosh Tiwari, and (MLA) Arvind Bhadauria accompany Congress MLAs?”

Digvijaya added: “All this is happening because Kamal Nath acted against the mafia. There were investigations into the e-tendering scam, Vyapam (medical education and job scandal). There is a lot to be exposed in a honey-trap case. All this frightened the BJP and they plotted to destabilise the government.”

There was speculation about some BJP MLAs being in touch with Nath but pressure is being mounted on them to change stance. This was reflected in the declaration of BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi that he is in the BJP and will remain there. Tripathi had been publicly talking of joining the Congress for the last few days. 

Questions for BJP and Congress

⚫ Goa, Bihar, Manipur, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh…. Have elections become meaningless and a complete joke?

⚫ Has the anti-defection law become a toothless wonder?

⚫ Crossover today, reward tomorrow: have voters become such prize idiots that parties have stripped themselves of even the fig-leaf of pretence?

⚫ If the Madhya Pradesh Speaker accepts the resignation of 22 MLAs, elections have to be held in these seats again, less than one and a half years after the last Assembly elections. Should the taxpayers’ money be splurged on elections necessitated by turncoats?

⚫ Scindia says his aim is to serve the people. Even for an erstwhile royal, shouldn’t he credit the people with more intelligence?

⚫ BJP ridicules dynasty. Isn’t Scindia part of a dynasty or has the Gangajal of defection purified him?

⚫ By fielding many candidates who could not withstand inducements, what sort of public representatives did the Congress choose?

⚫ If the Congress cannot keep its top rung free of “leaders” who can cross over to the BJP, what ideological battle is it fighting?

⚫ If Rahul Gandhi is happy tweeting and content being an MP, shouldn’t he jump what looks like a sinking ship and join some other party from where he can serve better his voters in Wayanad?