The shock defeat of AICC general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Guna constituency in Madhya Pradesh in the recently held general election has left the Lok Sabha without a leader with the famous royal surname after a long time. As the new Lok Sabha met, veterans realised that the Scindias, who had played a significant role on both treasury and opposition benches many times during the last six decades, were marking their presence by absence.
Except the first general election of 1952, at least one member of the Gwalior's Scindia royal family has been elected to the Lok Sabha in 15 consecutive elections from 1957 to 2014. This has included three generations of the Scindia family starting from the matriarch Vijayaraje Scindia, her son Madhavrao, daughter Yashodhara Raje, and grandson Jyotiraditya. However another daughter Vasundhara Raje's son Dushyant Singh has won on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket this time, but he does not use the Scindia surname, as he is the titular heir to the Dholpur royal family in Rajasthan.
If Dushyant's four consecutive victories are also added, Vijayaraje Scindia family has won 32 elections (including by-elections) to the Lok Sabha, bettered only by the Nehru-Gandhi family's record of 33 Lok Sabha election wins including by-elections (Maneka 7, Sonia 6, Indira and Rahul 4 each; Nehru, Rajiv and Varun three each; Feroze Gandhi 2 and Sanjay once). But there was no member of the Nehru-Gandhi family during 1977-79 as both Indira Gandhi and her younger son Sanjay Gandhi lost the elections. Again in 1991-1996, there was no Nehru-Gandhi family member due to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination during the 1991 election campaign.
The impact of the Scindias on the two national parties - Congress and BJP has been immense. The family patriarch Jiyajirao Scindia, the last maharaja to rule Gwalior state before Independence, was the Raj Pramukh of Madhya Bharat state and encouraged his wife Vijayaraje to contest the elections. Ironically, the Rajmata who began her career as a Congress leader winning three Lok Sabha elections, had serious differences with Indira Gandhi and became one of the pillars of Bharatiya Jana Sangh which later became the Bharatiya Janata Party. Her son Madhavrao Scindia, who had personal and political differences with his mother, began his career by contesting on a Jana Sangh ticket in 1971 bucking the Indira wave, then withstood Janata wave as an Independent candidate in 1977, and moved to the Congress in the 1980 elections. He won nine consecutive elections and is a joint record holder for this feat. His death in a plane accident brought in his son Jyotiraditya who won the subsequent by- election and three more elections from the family pocketborough of Guna. Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant have recorded their wins from Dholpur, as Vasundhara had married Hemant Singh, the titular head of the Dholpur royal family, while her younger sister Yashodharaja won two Lok Sabha elections before returning to Madhya Pradesh state politics.
If only Vijayaraje and the new Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had bonded together in the second half of 1960s, the course of politics in Madhya Pradesh could have been different. But Indira who became prime minister in 1966 did not consider the claim of the Rajmata of Gwalior to be a minister and leaned towards those who opposed the Gwalior family. A disenchanted Rajmata left the Congress and joined the Swatantra Party of C Rajagopalachari who was bitterly opposed to Indira. Vijayaraje resigned from Lok Sabha to steer the fortunes of the anti-Congress parties which had won a majority in the state assembly, as she crossed swords with the renowned D P Mishra, known as the Machiavellian advisor of Indira. She encouraged young leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee to travel the state extensively and build the Jana Sangh brick by brick. Her 26-year-old son Madhavrao won the Guna seat on a Jana Sangh ticket. Ironically D P Mishra’s son Brijesh Mishra became the closest adviser to Vajpayee when the saffron party first came to power.
The last feud of Rajmata with Indira gandhi was when she contested against her in Rae Bareli in 1980 and lost. She worked hard on the core issues of the newly formed BJP in the 1980s and 1990s, but when her party came to power in 1998, she was too senior and unwell to become a minister.
Madhavrao had a meteoric career in Congress as a confidante of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and as Minister for Railways started the modernisation of railways by putting the passenger at the heart of the schemes. He introduced Shatabdi and Rajdhani express trains, and improved railway stations across the country. But he had a bittersweet relationship with another Congress prime minister P V Narasimha Rao. Though he held important portfolios like human resource development and civil aviation, the southern politician did not trust the dashing royal, who had remained close to Rajiv Gandhi's family. Rao's CBI accused Madhavrao of being involved in the hawala scam, and he rebelled in 1996 to form the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Party and win two seats. Though he was part of the United Front, he actively encouraged Sonia Gandhi to enter politics, and in 1999 when she became leader of the opposition, Madhavrao was the deputy leader in opposition. Another speculation of political history is that if he had not died in a plane accident, Madhavrao would have played a very big role in the UPA governments, even becoming prime minister, as he was trusted by Sonia Gandhi.
Jyotiraditya has had some recognition as a minister of state with independent charge and recently as general secretary in charge of western Uttar Pradesh. He played a critical role in bringing back the Congress to power in Madhya Pradesh after a 15-year gap. Unlike his grandmother and father who withstood the popular waves of their eras, Jyotiraditya was defeated in the Modi wave in the recent Lok Sabha election.
Both Vasundara and Yashodhara supported their mother in the disputes with their brother, and have played key roles in the BJP. Vasundhara has been twice chief minister of Rajasthan and Yashodhara has been a state minister in Madhya Pradesh. But it is a fact that the election records and Lok Sabha proceedings will miss the Scindia name for the first time in 62 years.