Mr Scindia was responding to questions on by-polls to fill 24 vacancies in the Madhya Pradesh (File)
Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose supporters scored big in the Madhya Pradesh cabinet expansion today, announced his return to the forefront of state politics after months of silence and speculation by aiming a one-liner at his former Congress colleagues: “Tiger zinda hai“.
The BJP leader, recently elected to the Rajya Sabha, lashed out at the Congress, his party of 19 years until he quit in March.
“I don’t need any certificate from Kamal Nath nor Digvijaya Singh. The facts are before the people how they looted the state in 15 months,” he was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
“It is our duty to fight against injustice. Even if it means war, then Jyotiraditya Scindia will be on the frontlines. For the last two months, people have been trying to tarnish my character. I want to tell them – tiger abhi zinda hai (tiger is still alive),” he said, borrowing a popular Hindi film title.
Mr Scindia was responding to questions on whether MLAs who crossed over to the BJP with him would find it challenging to win by-polls due in September to fill 24 vacancies in the Madhya Pradesh assembly. Twenty-two seats fell vacant after Congress MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia quit, bringing down the Kamal Nath government and enabling the BJP’s takeover. Two more MLAs died.
After Mr Scindia joined the BJP, the MLAs followed him to the party. Eleven of them were rewarded with cabinet posts in Madhya Pradesh today.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has 34 ministers after today’s oath ceremony. Of these, 59 per cent won the 2018 state elections on a BJP ticket. The remaining 41 percent — 14 ministers — are former Congressmen (three took oath in April). In the Kamal Nath-led Congress government, only six ministers were Mr Scindia’s supporters. The BJP government has 11 of his supporters.
Perhaps for the first time in the state’s history, 14 ministers have to win by-elections to secure their membership in the assembly.
“Every election is a challenge. But the people of Madhya Pradesh are an informed lot. The 15-month (congress) government saw all sorts of corruption and reneging on promises. Now we have a BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has always believed in public service. We are confident of winning all 24 seats,” Mr Scindia said.
The 49-year-old leader’s silence in the past three months provoked much speculation, including talk about him “regretting” the switch to the BJP.
All along, negotiations continued for state cabinet spots as both Mr Chouhan and Mr Scindia pushed for their loyalists.
The dispute over berths delayed the cabinet expansion and Mr Chouhan ran his government with a thin five-member cabinet in the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Scindia finally prevailed and Mr Chouhan was forced to live with fewer of his candidates on his new team.