A royal somersault

Scindia’s switch to the BJP poses questions about the politics he professed until now

Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure from the Congress and his arrival in the BJP reveal many traits of both parties and the man himself. That he is termed as the lost future of the Congress is itself an irony, but a more intriguing question is whether the party was intuitive in not humouring any further someone who could so effortlessly cross over to the opposite ideological extreme. His aunt and BJP leader Yashodhara Raje Scindia likened his switch to a “homecoming.” In his crossing over, he also betrayed a popular mandate that he himself worked to win for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh in 2018. The Kamal Nath government is likely to collapse, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan who lost the poll appears set to return as CM with Mr. Scindia’s collaboration. As for the Congress, which needs every morsel to keep itself alive, it can ill-afford the loss of a State government and an urbane face who has a wider appeal. With his decamping, a new template is on offer for other Congress leaders who are ambitious and impatient at the same time, and are free of the force of conviction. The Congress is drifting into an annihilating eddy. Its interim president, Sonia Gandhi, still its most authoritative person, will have to do what is in her command to steer it back on course. His exit poses two questions for the Congress — the commitment of its leaders to a core ideology, and what it can do to hold itself together in this moment of crisis. Surely, the party needs to promote a new crop of young and rooted leaders from the country’s social diversity, who find it a vehicle of their aspirations and political empowerment.

Mr. Scindia’s formal ordination as a Hindutva torchbearer will not automatically raise him to a dominion role in a party so overwhelmingly under the personalised command of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. True, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the abrupt nullification of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status last year, but he had also openly called out the BJP government’s insensitivity and inefficiency in controlling the communal violence in Delhi in February. Mr. Scindia will have to earn his saffron stripes, and the rites of that initiation will be prolonged and testing. The BJP, and the Modi-Shah combine that rail against dynastic and entitlement politics, will have to spin a new story for Mr. Scindia, who will be the fifth Gwalior royalty to adorn a formal position in the party. His father, Madhavrao Scindia, who spent most of his life as a Congressman, had started his career as a Jan Sangh leader. While his lineage might be a burden of sorts in the anti-elite politics that the current BJP leadership claims to promote, the aged association of his family with Hindutva politics could make him eligible for a welcome that the RSS usually does not offer to latecomers. As he said, it will be a new beginning.

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