The resignation of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress and his likely induction into the BJP later on Tuesday (March 10), recalls another, very similar episode in the history of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. That incident took place 24 years ago, in 1996 — and the leader at its centre was Jyotiraditya’s late father, Madhavrao Scindia.
Like Jyotiraditya, Madhavrao had developed differences with the Congress leadership of the time. However, he had chosen to return to the fold after charting an independent course for two years. This is what happened. In January 1996, Madhavrao Scindia resigned as Human Resource Development Minister in the government of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao after his name figured in the Jain hawala diaries.
The Jain diaries allegedly contained details of illegal payments made to a large number of politicians, and it was alleged that Scindia had been paid Rs 75 lakh.
The Congress denied him a ticket in the Lok Sabha elections of April-May 1996. This was humiliation for Scindia, who had never lost an election since entering Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 — the same year that Jyotiraditya was born — at the age of 26.
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Scindia was then the Bharatiya Jana Sangh candidate from Guna, and he won the same seat again in 1977 (as an Independent) and in 1980 (as a candidate of Indira Gandhi’s Congress-I).
In the elections of 1984, 1989, and 1991, Scindia entered Lok Sabha from Gwalior as the Congress MP.
In 1996, Scindia rebelled against the Congress and left the party to form the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress (MPVC). He defeated the official Congress candidate against him in Gwalior, Shashi Bhushan Vajpeyi, to enter Lok Sabha for the seventh time.
The elections produced a hung Parliament, with the BJP winning the most (161) seats, and it allies, the Samata Party, Shiv Sena and Haryana Vikas Party, winning another 26 seats between themselves. In (undivided) Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won 27 of the 40 seats, and the Congress won 8.
After Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government fell in 13 days, the United Front government came to power with H D Deve Gowda as Prime Minister. Scindia’s MPVC supported the United Front through the tenures of Deve Gowda and I K Gujral, but Scindia did not take up a ministerial position.
In 1998, after Sitaram Kesri was ousted as Congress president, and with Rao having receded to the background in the party, Scindia returned to the Congress fold. He merged the MPVC with the mother party, and from then onward until his unfortunate death in an aircrash in 2001, Scindia remained a close adviser of the new Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.
With talk of a Rajya Sabha nomination on a BJP ticket and a possible ministerial berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the direction that Jyotiraditya Scindia’s career takes remains to be seen.