Whenever my Mother in Law meets her Grandchildren, she prefers to discuss topics of their liking. Say movies or rap songs. Is she trying to appropriate their parent’s authority? Or she is just trying to stay relevant?
Indira Gandhi issued stamp in the name of Swayntraveer Savarkar in 1970. Was she trying to appropriate RSS/Jan Sangh’s legacy? Or trying to make peace with Hindu nationalists?
In Oct 2019 Manmohan Singh issued a statement saying Congress is not against Veer Savarkar, but it does not favour the Hindutva ideology he stood for. Was he trying to appropriate the legacy? Or was trying to stop the Nationalist vote from slipping further away from Congress? You decide!
But then from the 2019 General Elections results it’s clear that Manmohan Singh and many pragmatic Congress politicians like him were not successful in stopping the inevitable. Congress was routed.
What you are witnessing months later are the domino effects of that monumental defeat. In July 2019, in Karnataka 14 Congress and 3 JDS MLA resigned to bring the Congress-JDS Government in minority. Which paved the way for BS Yeddyurappa to be CM again. Later, 12 of those were back in assembly by winning by-elections held in Dec 2019. Within 9 months of Yeddyurappa come back, in a repeat of Karnataka operation, 22 Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh decided to say bye to Congress. This brought Congress Government in minority and Kamalnath had to resign. But this time the casualty was not just one state Government. One of the biggest Congress leaders from MP, Jyotiraditya Scindia decided to switch sides.
Scindia joining BJP was quite an event. It tore the heart out MP Congress. And it portends the grim future Congress faces in more than one ways. One, it reflects the immediate political exigencies. Second, it also means Congress, for a long time will not be in a position to acquire any significant position of power. Lastly it means the ideological ground in Indian politics has shifted for ever.
Politicians are smartest people around us. They can sense early which way wind is blowing. Scindia obviously was very uncomfortable with current arrangement in Madhya Pradesh. With Kamalnath in control of Government and party monitored by Digvijay Singh, it was natural that he was feeling cornered. To add to that, reportedly his Rajya Sabha nomination from Madhya Pradesh was in jeopardy. Now after the switch his RS seat is guaranteed. But Scinida won’t take such a big decision for such a trifle. It means he has sensed Congress in current state cannot withstand Modi led BJP’s juggernaut. He knew there was a rebellion brewing in MP amongst Congress MLAs. And he was not the reason behind the unrest. He was merely helping the brewing mutiny to take shape and use it to the hilt for his own selfish motive.
There was a reason for this unease amongst MLA. After 15 years of BJP rule, notwithstanding the anti-incumbency, Congress just scrapped through. And then,ran a shockingly callous administration; which seemed only interested in pleasing contractors and transfer mafia. Such was the scale of Congress misrule that, in 15 months it made people nostalgic about the earlier Shivraj Singh regime. So when these 22 MLAs resigned they had little doubt, that most of them, in repeat of Karnataka, would be re-elected.
So what’s wrong with Congress? How can a politician with such strong relations with Rahul Gandhi himself leave party in such disrespectful manner? Remember what Rahul said when Jyotiraditya held the Press conference to announce his decision? He said, he is the only leader who can walk-in into my home. Obviously he had much more on his mind than personal access to Gandhis and friendship with his childhood pal, Rahul. But then how come Congress high-command failed to read his mind? Or were they not interested in knowing? You see, Scindia’s frustration was very widely known. One, he had openly supported BJP on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). And most importantly in Nov, one fine day he decided to remove ‘Congress’ from his Twitter bio. On the same day I had put this FB post.
So, if a casual observer like me can predict this event 3 months in advance, how come Sonia, the supreme leader, didn’t know this? Of course she and her coterie knew what’s brewing in Madhya Pradesh. Point is, Congress high command is not interested in handing over the lever of powers to anyone outside the small clique knows as ‘Family Loyalists’. Hence at the behest of another loyalist, Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia was ignored. Which he found too much to digest, and eventually called it quits.
Which brings us to the biggest overarching factor, Ideology. Such has been the magnitude and depth of Modi led BJP’s twin victories (2014 and 2019) that it has shaken the Indian polity at its base. Today BJP occupies the Nationalism, Religion and Economic Well-being, all three planes of electoral politics. Congress style Secularism or Neuhrivian Consensus, no more is a vote catcher it used to be. Which basically means for aspiring politicians like Scindia there was nothing to lose even if he leaves Congress. I mentioned above, Scindia changed his Twitter bio, but there was not much outcry then. Seems many Congress leaders were ready for him leaving the party. What they were not ready was, he joining BJP.
Consider another aspect. Scindia is a subscriber of BJP’s Nationalist creativities. But RSS/BJP continuously pushing Cultural narratives may make him uncomfortable. He did not utter a word (Positive) for any of the strident Hindutva agendas (say Ram Mandir) or a word (Negative) for Rahul Gandhi. He has no problem with Rahul and he won’t be converted into a Hindutva votary for a foreseeable future.
Lastly don’t forget, both together, were at the forefront of pushing Congress towards soft Hindutva. And Soft Hindutva may have been one of the reason; but it highlighted the sharp differences between two camps in the Gandhi household. To which Late Arun Jaitley famously referred as Palace coup. This switch by Scindia looks like a change in tactics rather than alteration in strategy. There is no change of heart here. By doing this, he is trying to protect his captive vote, which can be used in future.
He is merely waiting for right opportunity so that he, along with his childhood chummy, Rahul (minus the coterie), create a new Congress, which can be more relevant. He is biding his time and will come back to build a Congress which can fight BJP.