Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia
Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia
Indian History Pics

On Wednesday, Jyotiraditya Scindia finally joined the BJP in the presence of JP Nadda and other senior leaders. Interestingly, PM Modi and Amit Shah were missing in action but it was homecoming of sorts for the scion.

He said he had two significant dates in his life. The first was the day he lost his father Madhavrao Scindia and the second was his father’s 75th birth anniversary when he took the call to join BJP.

During his speech, he lashed out at the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. He claimed there was a denial in a reality in Congress, saying the party has changed. He said he had become hurt and distressed and he wasn’t able to serve the people in my previous organisation.

The deep connection with BJP

While millennials might be aghast to see the erstwhile Maharaja’s son turn saffron, the BJP and the Scindias have a long history. Vijayraje Scindia, Jyotiraditya's grandmother was one of the founding members of the BJP, a member of the Jan Sangh and also spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

The Scindias and the British

For starters, both their predecessors showed more affinity with the British than their Indian counterparts.

Legend still talks about the first instance of horse trading, when Jayaji Rao Scindia was accused of giving a lame horse to Jhansi Ki Rani which led to her death.

In fact, the Gwalior Municipal Corporation website had claimed in 2005: “The issue clearly has political overtones, with the local BJP eager to target junior Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. Narrating Gwalior’s history, the corporation website says: “Rani (Queen) of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai came to Gwalior when general Huroz of British army defeated Lakshmi Bai in Kalpi. Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior betrayed Lakshmi Bai. He gave her a weak horse. Sensing something fishy Lakshmi Bai decided to leave Gwalior. She laid down her life, while fighting British, on 18th June 1858.”

While serious historians have debunked the claim, the Scindias’ proximity to the British earned Jayajirao the rank of a general and a 21-gun salute.

The first Scindia to take a political plunge was Vijayaraje Scindia, known universally as Rajmata who set up the Scindia Kanvya Vidyalaya.

Jiwaji Rao's wife held great sway in the region. Interestingly, Jiwarji Rao also gave scholarship money to a young man named Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who would go on to become the PM.

Vijayaraje Scindia (birthname: Lekhya Devi) was married to Jiwaji Rao Scindia, the erstwhile ruler of Gwalior and they had five children.

Of them Madhavrao Scindia (Jyotiraditya’s father), Vasundhara Raje (former Rajasthan CM) and Yashondhara Raje, are/were active in politics.

Vijayaraje first contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1957 when she won the Guna Lok Sabha seat and five years later won the Gwalior seat, from the Congress party. She would later quit the Congress.

Later, she won the Guna seat with a Swatantra Party ticket in 1967, before joining the Bharaitya Jan Sangh, the precursor to the BJP.

In 1971, Vijayaraje defied the Indira Gandhi wave and helped Bharatiya Jan Sangh win three seats in the Gwalior region – Gwalior, Guna and Bhind.

The other two winners were former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and her son Madhavrao Scindia.

The Babri Demolition
The Babri Demolition

Vijayaraje would later spend time in jail during the Emergency, sharing a cell with another royal figure – Gayatri Devi.

While her son Madhavrao would eventually return to the Congress fold, Vijayaraje became one of the leading figures of the BJP giving legitimacy to the party. She would retain the Guna seat in 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998.

A public dispute with Madhavrao occurred in the 1970 who would later participate in an epic clash of the titans with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1984 Lok Sabha. The Scindias and Vajpayee also had a long relationship, starting when Jyotiraditya’s father subsided his education.

While Vijayaraje only lost one election, to Indira Gandhi in Rae Bareli, Madhavrao Scindia – a nine-time member of Lok Sabha, never lost an election.

She was one of the founding members of the BJP in 1980 and was a vice-president and played a part in the Ram Janmbhoomi movement and the Babri Masjid demolition. She sat on stage with MM Joshi and LK Advani as the Babri Masjid was brought down.

An article in Outlook notes: “The opening lines of Vijayaraje Scindia's speech were a signal to bring down the Babri mosque. L.K. Advani was on the dais erected at Ram Katha Kunj, barely 100 metres away. Sharing the stage with him were Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore and Vinay Katiyar," says Santosh Dube. He was one of the thousands of kar sevaks who managed to jostle through the mob and reach the "target". Thirteen years later, Dube is still proud of being one of those who brought down the mosque. He only wishes he hadn't done it on the "instigation of those who incited the mob from a stage on December 6, 1992".”

Following the demolition, she had reportedly said she could die peacefully without any regret, for she had seen her dream come true.

She died in 2001.

At one point, Madhavrao was even considered a rival to Sonia Gandhi for the Congress president’s post and former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh noted that he could’ve been PM as well.

He passed away in a tragic helicopter accident in 2001.

Interestingly, other than Jyotiraditaya Scindia all other prominent members of the Scindia family were already part of BJP.

Vasundhara Raje, Yasondhara Raje, Vasundhara’s son Dushyant are all members of the BJP. Jyotiraditya’s homecoming is perhaps the final pack in the card, which could see the Kamal Nath government topple and a Doon School-educated MP from BJP in the Rajya Sabha.

With inputs from agencies

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal