Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Career Move Shows Congress Needs Makeover
If we look at politics as a career, Jyotiraditya Scindia’s move makes good sense, as Congress refuses to re-invent.
Former Member of Parliament, General Secretary of Congress, and the billionaire heir to the erstwhile British protectorate of Gwalior, Jyotiraditya Scindia, decided to switch parties and join the Bhartiya Janata Party; causing a mini–earthquake across India’s political landscape. The ‘experts’ on 24x7 television media and twitter went into an expected frenzy, latching on to every piece of gossip and second-hand information.
However, it was the Delhi-based liberal media which had the most visible meltdown. They tried to paint an all too familiar picture of Scindia as a young and upcoming leader who was ‘lost’ to the inept leadership of Rahul Gandhi and hard done by the machinations of crooked party veterans Digvijaya Singh and present Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
On the other hand, a section of the mass base of the Congress Party and its leaders labelled him a traitor and conjured the memories of the betrayal of Rani Laxmibai by the House of Scindias. Incidentally, the invocation of this betrayal was a recurrent trope of former BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s speeches who ran an entire campaign in the last election with the slogan of – “Maaf Karo Maharaj, Hamara Neta Shivraj”.
Now, of course, all was forgiven. The reasons for Scindia’s desertion, however, lies outside both these paradigms of emotive knee-jerk reactions and evey person invested in the liberal - democratic project must soberly consider them.
Was Jyotiraditya Scindia Really ‘Marginalised’ in the Congress?
If we try and go by what we know definitely and not by conjecture, a very different picture of the entire episode emerges. The first theory is about the central leadership of the Congress being unresponsive. However, in his resignation letter, he revealed that he had been considering this switch for the last one year and therefore, the supposed inaccessibility of Rahul Gandhi also does not hold water. Gandhi, who has maintained a stoic silence through the entire episode, broke it momentarily, to let it be known to the public that of all people Scindia could have called upon him at all times.
The other complaint in the media is about the supposed political marginalisation of Scindia within the Congress owing to Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath. However, Scindia has had an extraordinary career for such a young man in Indian politics. At only 49, he was a four term MP, a two-time Union Minister, a CWC member, in-charge of Western UP and a power centre in Madhya Pradesh. He could have chosen to be the Deputy Chief Minister like Sachin Pilot, if he so wished, when the Congress rode back to power after 15 long years, which strangely, he did not.
Here is a fact: A close friend of Rahul Gandhi can never be marginalised in the Congress.
The other theory is about him being the ‘face’ of the Party; which in plainspeak means that the Media likes him. This cannot be contested. He was the most telegenic leader of the Congress. However, there’s a universe of politics outside television studios. This is the reason that when he decided to switch parties the overwhelming majority of the MLAs decided not to jump ship with him, starkly exposing his limited regional influence in the Madhya Pradesh.
Given this fact, it would be fair to assume that he wielded power commensurate to his influence. In any case, the answer to ending marginalisation in the Congress could never be joining the BJP; an ideologically committed, cadre-based party with a whole galaxy of heavyweights entrenched in the Gwalior–Chambal region which is Scindia’s area of influence.
Scindia’s Model of Power
The alternative explanation, then, would have to factor in the other big development that took place about a year ago; namely his electoral defeat in the general elections, at the hands of his own worker, in his family fiefdom of Guna.
Scindia’s political clout is entirely based on his electoral invincibility and massive inherited wealth which guaranteed him the position of the perpetual disburser of power and patronage to his loyalists.
In the wake of his 2019 defeat that aura of invicibility was shattered. Immediately after that, he broke ranks with the Congress, to support the authoritarian abrogation of Article 370 while three democratically elected CMs were summarily thrown in jail. This was followed by his support of the CAA–NRC which is the most profound attack on the Constitutional ideals of our Republic.
Jyotiraditya Scindia Can’t Think of Politics Sans Power
Scindia’s switch to the BJP, then, is the result of his inability to imagine a politics outside of power. Given his model of politics, this is personally a canny move on his part. For the foreseeable future, the BJP will be the dominant force in national politics. He will once again be elevated to the position where he can be a patron and secure his other interests within a predictable matrix of power in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.
If we look at politics as a career, this move makes perfect sense, for he will be relatively insulated by the uncertainty of democracy.
The other vision of politics looks at it as a movement. This is a period of great churning in this country’s politics. The entire opposition, not only the Congress, would do well to reinvent itself as a movement for a new Constitutional compact by engaging in dialogue with the emergent forces and most importantly, remembering who stood with them in these testing times. Perhaps then the image of the Congress as the revolving door of the elites would give way to its professed ideal as the custodian of the values of the freedom struggle.
(The author is a political activist based in Madhya Pradesh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed in this article are that of the writer’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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