Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection from the Congress to BJP saw an unusual consequence on Thursday, the death anniversary of Rani Laxmibai, one of the leading lights of the 1857 War of Independence.
The Congress took the lead in remembering the queen of Jhansi, something the party did not do before. The ruling BJP, meanwhile, was a little restrained, especially in Gwalior, unlike previous years when the saffron party remembered her with pride.
Historians accuse the Scindia dynasty of joining hands with the British to scuttle what was described as the “sepoy mutiny” of 1857.
When Jyotiraditya was with Congress, BJP leaders such as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya would obliquely refer to the alleged treacherous act of his forefathers.
On Thursday, state Congress leaders admitted that they had never remembered the queen as they did this time because it gave them an opportunity to target Jyotiraditya, whose defection brought down the Kamal Nath government, and whose area of influence — Gwalior-Chambal region — has the most seats going for Assembly by-elections.
The Congress Legislature Party meeting in Bhopal began on the day after offering tributes to Rani Laxmibai. Former CM and state Congress chief Kamal Nath said on the occasion: “We have seen the fate of rajas and maharajas of the Congress who deceived the party and formed their outfits…. Some people have history of treachery.”
“The glorious tales of heroes tell us that no allurement can stop them from doing their duty,” Nath tweeted.
Congress leader K K Mishra, who is the party’s Gwalior-Chambal region in-charge for the bypolls, said, “History knows who was close to the British and what killed her…. Gwalior-Chambal can forgive everything but not treachery.”
Scindia’s confidant Pankaj Chaturvedi said the Congress is left with no issues because it has nothing to offer.
For the last two decades, Veerangana Balidan Mela is organised in Gwalior in memory of the queen. It includes a play on her heroics, and the Scindia dynasty is targeted in it. Pawaiya, a sworn opponent of Scindia, is the key figure in organising the event. The event was held only symbolically on Thursday.
“If a party remembers someone in 2020 for political reasons, let it be so. I have been organising the event for two decades and the samadhi sthal is not less than a temple to me. It’s not a matter of politics for me,’’ Pawaiya said.
Asked why the event was scaled down, the BJP leader said it had been done due to coronavirus. “Organising an event in violation of guidelines and putting lives at stake is not rashtra dharma (national duty). The event will be held on a big scale next year,’’ he said.
Asked whether it will feature the drama in which the Scindia dynasty is targeted, he said, “Principles can’t be changed like clothes and history can’t be changed for someone’s convenience.’’