New Delhi: In a royal snub for the Congress, former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia (49) resigned from the primary membership of the party to join the BJP. More important, 22 MLAs who support Scindia, too, have walked out, reducing the government in Madhya Pradesh to a minority.
The Congress leadership, which did not read the writing on the wall, expelled Scindia as soon as he went over to meet PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The expulsion came even before Scindia’s resignation, sent through an aide, reached 10 Janpath.
Instead of his induction in the BJP at the party headquarters on Sunday, the BJP decided that he should join the party formally in Bhopal on Thursday, along with the MLAs who resigned with him.
But why on Thursday? Possibly because it is the last day for filing nominations for the Rajya Sabha polls later this month and Scindia is expected to do this from Madhya Pradesh.
He chose to walk into the BJP after 18 years in the Congress on the 75th birth anniversary of his father and ex-Union minister Madhavrao Scindia, who spent his first 10 years of politics in the erstwhile Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the BJP. The BJP described it as "ghar wapsi.
"Scindia is tipped to be inducted as a minister in the Modi government after the end of the ongoing Parliament session. He is the last person in the royal family of the Scindias to desert the Congress, sensing his humiliation at being ignored continuously, despite once being very close to Rahul Gandhi.
Scindia drove down to the BJP HQ in the evening, shortly after an hour-long meeting on finalisation of Rajya Sabha candidates ended, and he was told that he is welcome to come on board.
The party has given a green signal to BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan to stake claim as the CM for the fourth term. A meeting of the BJP MLAs was convened in Bhopal on Sunday evening to formally elect him leader of the BJP legislature party.
The Congress ignored the development and did not speak to Scindia even after the alarm bell rang this week when 10 party MLAs were ferried to Bengaluru and Gurugram.
The leadership perhaps miscalculated the extent of dissent since the MLAs returned to the party fold after former CM Digvijaya Singh played the troubleshooter.
There may be ripples in Rajasthan, too, where Rahul Gandhi's another confidant, Sachin Pilot(42), has been making frequent trips to Delhi to complain about Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Scindia had dropped hints of his plans a month ago when he removed the political positions he held from his Twitter profile to describe himself just as a "public servant" and a "cricket enthusiast."
Scindia was frustrated and his self-respect was hurt at being slighted with no position being offered to him in the state despite leading the party to victory in the Assembly elections. Moreover, he had to reckon with the Kamal Nath and the Digvijaya Singh coteries, not to forget the caucus in Delhi that was working against him.
Scindia was hoping to be the chief minister but he was not even made the State Congress chief, the post Kamal Nath continues to hold. Incidentally, it was a small coterie around Sonia that was opposed to him being made the chief minister, lest the Congress is dubbed a party of rajas and maharajas.
He sent in his resignation to Sonia Gandhi on Sunday through an assistant, saying that it is "time for me to move on and look ahead to a fresh start" as he was "unable to serve the state or country" in the Congress.
Sources close to him say the last nail that made him quit the Congress came on Saturday night when he was told that Digvijaya Singh is being given the Rajya Sabha seat for another term and he can be adjusted from the nearby Chhattisgarh, if he agrees.Speaker.
Those close to Scindia claimed 10 to 12 more MLAs may resign. However, this shows Scindia did not have the support of a large number of MLAs to stake claim to be the CM.
The Congress leadership is reconciled that its government cannot survive as its strength in the House of 228 (2 vacancies due to death) has been reduced to 97, including support of 4 independents, as against the BJP's strength of 107.