M. A. Siraj
Is there any leader within the Bharatiya Janata Party who does not see eye to eye with the Modi-Shah duo? The vice-like grip of the duo has ensured that no one opposed to them survive at any position of consequence. But it is twice chief minister of the Rajasthan and a former Union Minister, Vasundhara Raje Scindia who has held the ground within the party despite distinct disapproval of the duo.
Though Scindia has issued a statement that she remains with the BJP, her long silence over the BJP-backed manoeuvres to destabilize the Gehlot Government, has demonstrated that she is keener to see Gehlot in the saddle than a centre-backed leader emerging at the top in the State BJP. Political observers term Scindia’s statement of loyalty to the party merely a formality.
Be it the party or the Government, the duo’s unflinching grip has allowed no dissent or the dissenter to gain ground. But Vasundhara has been an exception. In the political storm last week which posed a threat to the Gehlot-headed Congress Government in the State, it was left to Hanuman Beniwal, an MLA of the Rashtrawadi Loktantrik Party to interpret Scindia’s silence even as hot bargaining was on to see that Pilot emerges successful with a sizeable chunk of Congress MLAs behind him. Beniwal spoke out loud and clear and went on record that Scindia was not keen to rock the Gehlot’s boat.
Scindia with more than 70 BJP MLAs with her, has been defying the duo all through. Consequently, despite the BJP making a clean sweep of Rajasthan during the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, no Scindia loyalist could find a berth in the Union cabinet. If it was Nihal Singh who was made a central minister in 2014, it was Rajinder Singh Shekhawat in 2019 who made it to the ministry. Yet another Modi loyalist, Om Prakash Birla was elected Speaker of the Lower House.
Modi-Scindia antipathy goes back to 2007 when a canal originating from Narmada River and brought to Rajasthan was to be inaugurated. While Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat and Scindia was holding the fort in Jaipur, the two had disagreed over where the inauguration ceremony to be held–Gujarat or Rajasthan. Both were keen to take the credit for the same. The acrimony continues till today and Scindia has refused to toe the Modi-Shah line. In 2018, she saw to it that her own nominee Madan Lal Saini is appointed the State Party President, despite the central party organization favouring Modi-Shah nominee Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Even the majority of tickets were given to her loyalists. The slogans (Vasundhara teri khair nahin, Modi tujh se bair nahin) heard during the run-up to the poll, were orchestrated at the behest of central leadership that was not comfortable with Scindia.
The media brouhaha over former IPL Lalit Modi’s flight out of the country too is said to have been the handiwork of central dispensation to tarnish the image of Scindia. Lalit Modi, the man who revolutionized commercial cricket, is said to have been close to Scindia. He was in fact called ‘super chief minister’. It was during 2010-11 that he came under the scanner in connection with certain financial irregularities and had to flee the country. A section of the media blamed Scindia for his flight to London.
With Scindia’s grip over the State party apparatus refusing to loosen, it is guessed that there may be constant attempts to dislodge her from the key position in the State.
M.A. Siraj is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru