Irrespective of the party he may be a part of, the Civil Aviation Minister will not be denied his chance to spread his wings! Here’s looking at the achievements and talents of the royal Jyotiraditya Scindia.
By Shireen Moses
In 2021, Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed as the new Civil Aviation Minister. Interestingly, his father, Madhavrao Scindia held the same post between 1991 and 1993. The difference being the senior Scindia was part of the P V Narasimhaled Congress government, while the 52-year-old Jyotiraditya is one of the new faces in Narendra Modi’s cabinet. The top BJP leadership reportedly felt he fit the requirement for a young, fresh, dynamic force to bring in new energy and new ideas to make this sector dynamic and keep up pace with the changing post-Covid world.
Scindia’s rise to prominence was a vindication of his decision to quit the Congress party in March 2020, which he had been a member of for 18 years, having joined the party after his father Madhavrao Scindia’s death in an air crash. He had been a minister during both UPA stints. A known Congress loyalist and friend of the Gandhi family, Jyotiraditya’s quitting the party that his father had been part of for decades, came as a shock. He reportedly made the move due to a number of factors, namely unfulfilled promises of the party’s government in Madhya Pradesh that led to his facing flak from his core supporters among the youth and farmers, his doubts over securing a Rajya Sabha seat and his growing resentment over being snubbed for a leadership role in the state.
He is as famous for his witty taunts, as he is for his political understanding and public clout.
He told media persons that he took the decision to join the BJP bearing in mind that it coincided with his father’s 75th birth anniversary on 10th March. “Our aim should be to serve the people and politics should only be an instrument to achieve this aim,” he said, adding that he was “sad and pained” that this aim was not getting fulfilled in the Congress.
The top BJP leadership reportedly felt he fit the requirement for a young, fresh, dynamic force to bring in new energy and new ideas to make this sector dynamic and keep up pace with the changing post-Covid world.
Return To Roots
While welcoming Scindia into the BJP, party president J P Nadda pointed out that Scindia’s grandmother Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia was a founder member of both the Jana Sangh and the BJP, and had worked hard to propagate the party’s ideology and principles. This came as a surprise to those unaware of Scindia’s lineage. His grandfather, Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia (26 June 1916 – 16 July 1961) was an Indian prince – scion of the Scindia family, and a government official. He was the last ruling maharaja of the princely state of Gwalior in central India from 1925 until 1947. After the state was absorbed into independent India, he was granted a privy purse, certain privileges, and the use of the title maharaja of Gwalior by the government of India, which he retained until his death in 1961. He also served as the rajpramukh (governor) of the state of Madhya Bharat until 1956.
After Maharaja Jivrajirao’s death in 1961, his family remained involved in politics. His widow, Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1962. This was the start of the family’s long innings in electoral politics. Initially a member of the Indian National Congress, she quit the party in 1967, joined the Jana Sangh, and later became an influential member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Her son, Jyotiraditya’s father, Madhavrao Scindia, was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971, representing the Jana Sangh. However, he later joined the Congress in 1980 and served until his death in 2001. In 2002, Jyotiraditya, also a member of the Congress party, was elected to the seat formerly held by his father.
Jyotiraditya’s aunt, Jivajirao’s daughter Vasundhara Raje is also an eminent politician associated with the BJP. The first woman chief minister of Rajasthan, she was a member of the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms since 1989. Vasundhara Raje’s son, Dushyant Singh of Dholpur is also a BJP MP. Vasundhara Raje’s younger sister, Yashodhara Raje has also served as a state minister in the Madhya Pradesh government. On Jyotiaditya’s joining the BJP, his aunt Vasundhara Raje Scindia tweeted, “It’s good to be on the same team.”
The Scindias and power have always remained close.
He has been credited with modernising the Indian post offices through new branding and IT-enabled procedures; bringing down transaction costs in Indian exports, and leading the establishment of a unified transmission power grid network.
Born on 1 January 1971 to Madhavi Raje and Madhavrao Scindia, Jyotiraditya was briefly the crown prince of Gwalior, till the privy purses and titles of Indian royals were abolished by the government the same year. Schooled at Campion School, Bombay and at the Doon School, Dehradun, he enrolled in St Stephen’s College, Delhi. Transferring to the undergraduate liberal arts college of Harvard University, where he graduated with a BA degree in Economics in 1993, in 2001, he followed it up with an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Needless to say, from a young age itself, he stood apart. Writing in the ‘Sunday Guardian’, Anand Raghavan, a childhood friend of Jyotiraditya’s from ages 6 – 10, shares an incident from their class 1 days at Campion, “under the tutelage of the austere Miss Boyle.” Raghavan narrates how one day, Miss Boyle tipped off the platform in front of the blackboard and fell onto the floor right in front of his desk. As he stared shell-shocked at Miss Boyle, she lifted herself up with her elbow and, in a steady voice, asked everyone to remain seated. At that point, the young Jyoti walked up to her, gave her a hand and asked if she was alright. Raghavan writes, “Miss Boyle’s eyes turned soft as she thanked him and shared a word of admiration for him with the whole class… Even as a child, Jyoti had that rare but spontaneous instinct to stand apart amidst an unfamiliar environment and do what he believed in.”
Did you know…?
• One of the richest politicians, Jyotiraditya Scindia reportedly owns properties worth over 2 billion. His permanent residence is the stupendous Jai Vilas palace in Gwalior, worth over Rs 4,000 crore and adorned with 560kg of gold. It was built in 1874 by Jayajirao Scindia, the maharaja of Gwalior in the British Raj.
• Fond of cricket, he was also the president of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association.
• He is the director of the board of governors of Scindia School, Gwalior which was founded in 1897 by his greatgrandfather, Madhavrao Scindia I. He is also on the board of the Madhav Institute of Technology & Sciences, Samrat Ashok Technological Institute and is a patron of the Daly College.
• At 23, he married Priyadarshini Raje of the Gaekwad royal family of Gujarat. In an interview, speaking about their first meeting, Jyotiraditya shared, “It was in December 1991, that I first met Priyadarshini, the daughter of Sangram Sinh Gaekwad of Baroda, in Delhi. She was based in Mumbai and me in the US at that point in time. Our first meeting was an arranged affair – a dinner at a social gathering. From then on, it was up to us. But I knew from day one that Priyadarshini was the one for me. We were finally married in December 1994.”
• Jyotiraditya is known to be a doting father to their two children – daughter Ananya and son Mahanaaryaman. Soon after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and just before the exit results started coming in, he flew with his family to the United States for his son’s graduation ceremony from Yale University. After the ceremony, he tweeted photographs, writing, “A special moment for the entire family. Proud to be by your side as you graduate, son!”
• Son Mahanaaryaman’s LinkedIn profile describes him as the co-founder of My Mandi, “a B2B2C marketplace.”
• The book The House of Scindias: A Saga of Power, Politics, and Intrigue by Rasheed Kidwai details the royal family’s role in history, legal battles and more.
“Our aim should be to serve the people and politics should only be an instrument to achieve this aim.” – Jyotiraditya Scindia
Making His Mark
Since his entry into politics, Jyotiraditya contested his maiden election as a Congress candidate in 2002 – a bypoll in the Guna Lok Sabha constituency. In 2007, he was inducted into the UPA government and remained a part of the Union Cabinet till 2014 by serving as a minister of state for communications, commerce and industry and power. In 2014, he was again elected from Guna, his traditional seat for a fourth time but lost from the constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to BJP candidate KP Yadav, who was once close to him. The following year, he emerged as the new kingmaker in Madhya Pradesh politics after toppling the Kamal Nath-led Congress government.
During his time in the Congress, he had become a pillar of strength for the party in Madhya Pradesh as well as at the Centre. He was the first among the young Turks of the Congress to be given independent charge as a minister of state. Along with Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and Jitin Prasada, he was part of a close-knit group that sat together and often launched verbal attacks against their political rivals. His strong oratorical skills saw him become the chief whip of the party in the 16th Lok Sabha.
Today, he is as famous for his witty taunts, as he is for his political understanding and public clout. He has often made his presence felt by raising issues related to the public and connecting voters with the Scindia parivaar.
In his various roles so far, he has been credited with modernising the Indian post offices through new branding and IT-enabled procedures; bringing down transaction costs in Indian exports, and leading the establishment of a unified transmission power grid network.
Speaking recently at the curtain-raiser for the Wing India 2024 conference to be held next year, Jyotiraditya revealed that the government has a “massive game plan” and a three pronged strategy for the country’s fast-growing aviation market. Clearly, the sky is his oyster…
Scindia’s rise to prominence was a vindication of his decision to quit the Congress party in March 2020.