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Sunday, June 13, 1999
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by Harihar Swarup
Sketch by RangaMaharani who conquered all the way
THE last of the scion of the princely order has decided to retire from active politics and also opted out of the electoral fray. The dowager Maharani of Gwalior, Vijayaraje Scindia, is, perhaps, the last politician who has seen the real princely splendour and later the rough and tumble of politics.

delhi durbar

Indo-Pak cricket and war cries
THE result of the clash between India and Pakistan in the Super Six stage of the World Cup at Old Trafford, Manchester cast its shadow on fields outside cricket.

75 Years Ago

Indian Mathematical Society
THE fourth conference of the Indian Mathematical Society was opened in Poona this morning. . .



by Harihar Swarup
Maharani who conquered all the way

THE last of the scion of the princely order has decided to retire from active politics and also opted out of the electoral fray. The dowager Maharani of Gwalior, Vijayaraje Scindia, is, perhaps, the last politician who has seen the real princely splendour and later the rough and tumble of politics. When she stepped in Usha Kiran palace 58 years ago as a bride, Gwalior was one of the five premier princely states and her husband, Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia, was entitled to a salute of 21 guns on official visits. As she bows out of the battle at hustings, ending her 37-year-long political career, she has broken the icon of a Maharani and acquired a new image, she has changed into a seasoned leader having secured her place in highest echelon of the BJP’s hierarchy.

Her prolonged illness is said to be reason for her bidding farewell to elections. She has created a record in electoral battles never loosing even once. Her debut into politics has been dramatic. The erstwhile princely state of Gwalior having eight Lok Sabha constituencies and 60 assembly seats had become stronghold of the Hindu Maha Sabha at the time of 1962 general election and Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia supported the organisation.

The nexus was not liked by the Congress leaders and as the dowager Maharani reminisces “from Delhi came ominous rumblings which caused me considerable anxiety.” The Maharaja was in Bombay, immersed in the racing season (horse racing was one of his passion) and her attempt to get him on the telephone proved abortive. Fearing punitive action against her husband, Vijayaraje, who was later given the title of “Rajmata,” decided to travel to Delhi, to meet Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and explain to him that the Maharaja was not against the Congress.

The conversation took place on these lines:

Nehru: Well, the Maharaja is not against us, then let him show that he is with us. Let him stand for Parliament as the Congress candidate.

Vijayaraje: But, Panditji, he simply hates politics. He will never be a candidate for any party. That is precisely what I have come to explain to you.

Nehru: Well, in the case you stand as our candidate. Go and see Pantji (Govind Ballabh Pant) and Shastriji. They are in charge of giving the party ticket....”

The Maharani’s protests — “but I don’t want the ticket” — proved of no avail and ultimately she and her husband agreed that she should be the Congress candidate. She says: “These were the circumstances that combined to push me into politics — a tissue of rumours (nexus between the Maharaja and the HMS and threat of punitive action), a wife’s anxiety to save her husband from the consequences of such rumours and the abortive telephone call”.

Vijayaraje snapped her ties with the Congress following sharp differences and go clash with Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh D.P. Mishra, before 1967 elections. She contested for the State Assembly (by that time Lok Sabha and Assembly polls were not delinked) on the then Jana Sangh ticket and for Parliament on the Swatantra Party ticket. She won both seats but decided to retain the Assembly seat and formally joined the then Jana Sangh.

Her tryst with Madhya Pradesh politics has begun; she had not forgotten the humiliation heaped on her by Mishra. His strong-armed methods and ham-handed style of functioning had caused widespread discontent in the state unit of the Congress party. One evening a senior minister of D.P. Mishra’s cabinet, Mr Govind Narayan Singh, came to see her with the proposal of ensuring defecting with 30 Congress MLAs and, thereby, toppling the Mishra Government.

A secret plan was hatched with the tacit support of Vijayaraje, who was by then popularly known as the Rajmata. Mishra was shocked when 36 members of the Congress party announced on the floor of the State Assembly that they have defected to the Opposition side. Having reduced to a minority, Mr D.P. Mishra, was forced to tender his resignation by the Congress high command.

With the ouster of Mr Mishra, for the first time in Madhya Pradesh, a non-Congress government comprising Opposition parties was formed and the combine was named “Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD). The Rajmata became the supreme leader of the SVD and Mr Govind Narayan Singh, the Chief Minister. The experiment lasted barely 20 months; sharp differences cropped up between Vijayaraje and Mr Singh. Paradoxically, Mr Govind Narayan, who was the chief architect in the plot to overthrow Mr D.P. Mishra’s ministry was also instrumental in toppling and his own government. He returned to the Congress fold.

Vijayaraje’s clout in the Gwalior region helped the Jana Sangh,which later became the BJP, to drive tremendous electoral gains. She became an important leader of the party, respected and relied upon. She felt more at home in the BJP as she agreed with the programme of the party. Come the Emergency and she had to run from place to place to escape arrest but ultimately gave up. She was interned at a pleasant little bungalow, known as Bison Lodge, in the hill resort of Pachmarhi. The Rajmata was subsequently transferred to Tihar Jail where her fellow prisoner was yet another Rajmata — ex Maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi. Both were known to be most beautiful women of their times.

The personal life of 80-year-old former Maharani of Gwalior has been replete with tragedies. Her mother died nine days after her birth and she was brought up by her grandmother who lived in regal grandeur. Her husband passed away when he was barely 45. Her eldest daughter, married to Maharaja of Tripura, died young and unhappy. There was fight over her custody between the grandmother and her father, a Deputy Collector in the United Province of Agra and Oudh during the British Raj. The grandmother, however, retained her custody, says Vijayaraje. Her father had married for the second time and the age differences between Vijayaraje and her stepmother was only six years.

Though her ancestors were Ranas of Nepal, who took shelter in India because of feuds in the clan and settled in Sagar town of Madhya Pradesh, Vijayaraje was a commoner and her marriage with such high placed prince as Jivajirao Scindia had raised many eye brows. They met for the first time in Bombay’s Taj Mahal hotel and the Maharaja fell for the stunning beauty of the girl from Sagar.

She protested when a close relative and confidant of the Maharaja, Sardar Krishnarao Mahadik, addressed her as “Princess.”

“You must not call me Princess; I am not a Princess.”

“How am I to address you then,” asked the Sardar.

Pat came the reply from the young lady “Lekhi Devi (her original name) I think. That is how visitors to our house address me.”

The first indication of the Maharaja’s consent came when his ADC, a young captain, bent low as if to touch Lekhi Devi’s feet with right hand before lifting it to his chest three times. The salutation is known as “Mujra” and courtiers in Maratha princely states greet their Maharajas and Maharanis and their children in this fashion.

“You mustn’t do ‘Mujra’ to me, captain,” she protested.

“I must to our Maharani,” said the captain.

As per the custom of Scindia the name of the bride was changed. Lekhi Devi became Maharani Vijayaraje Scindia.


delhi durbar
Indo-Pak cricket and war cries

THE result of the clash between India and Pakistan in the Super Six stage of the World Cup at Old Trafford, Manchester cast its shadow on fields outside cricket.

The needle clash for the cricketers of these teams could not have come at a more inappropriate occasion as both nations were engaged in a military battle in the heights of Kargil. It certainly added to the pressure on the players.

As it is an Indo-Pak match generates passion bordering on jingoism and with Kargil operations on, most people equated the Old Trafford turf to the battle zone.

Such was the interest that midway through its National Assembly meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan Information Minister Mushahid Hussain announced the dismissal of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar. It was another matter that the Ministers were left angry and dejected when Indian bowlers won the match.

The result also triggered off joyous and boisterous impromptu celebrations in many cities across India. There are reports now from the battle front that when India was down in the dumps, the Pakistani guns were silent but started booming once the match was over.

In Delhi, the politicians did not lose time in driving home the message. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Congress President Sonia Gandhi sent across congratulatory messages to Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin, on the splendid victory.

Former BJP MP, Vijay Goel’s Lok Abhiyan inserted advertisements in newspapers listing 11 “Cricketing lessons to Nawaz Sharif from Old Trafford. They included that boundaries on a cricket field don’t change an apparent reference to attempt to do so of the Line of Control in Kargil and ended it with the message: “Old Trafford awaits you at Kargil”. A case of mixing business with pleasure is it ?

Competitive visits?
Was it the request from Congress President Sonia Gandhi that prompted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to plan a visit to Kargil battle zone on Sunday ?

Well, sources close to the Congress President maintain that they had sought permission from the government for the proposed visit by Mrs Sonia Gandhi to those parts.

The Congress President it is understood applied for permission on June 4 primarily for two reasons. One since the defence forces were carrying out operations, access to the area was restricted and second that she happens to have a personal security protection equivalent to the Prime Minister.

However, the Congress party announced the decision of the Congress President to depute four senior leaders — Mr Ahmed Patel, Mr Jitendra Prasada, Mr Kamal Nath and Mufti Mohammed Sayed, who hails from the valley — to visit Kargil on June 12.

A day later the party announced that Sonia Gandhi herself was visiting Srinagar, Udhampur and Chandigarh to meet the jawans who were injured in the Kargil sector and now undergoing treatment at hospitals in these cities.

It was the Congress President’s decision that was pre-empted by the government which announced Mr Vajpayee’s visit even before clearing Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s trip.

George lies low
Defence Minister George Fernandes, who according to his detractors has been directed to lie low, was forced to duck and go into a shell when scribes starting bombarding him with questions at a Press conference called by his party on Thursday this week.

While Samata Party spokesman Digvijay Singh and General Secretary Jaya Jaitley were trying to throw a cordon around him to rescue him from the barrage of questions on Kargil and defence related issues, a helpless Fernandes remained a mute spectator trying not to say anything which might again snowball into a controversy.

As a matter of fact the party had undertaken a simulation exercise as what should be Mr Fernandes’ reply to a given set of questions. But he preferred to avoid all questions saying the Army was briefing everyday on these issues.

Krishi Bhavan going green
Well after ushering in the green revolution in the country in the late sixties, Krishi Bhavan, the building that houses various departments of the Agriculture Ministry of the Government of India, has decided to acquire a green look.

The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Mr Bhaskar Barua, planted a sapling of hibiscus in front of Krishi Bhavan last Monday which was followed by several senior officials and staff members doing encore in the premises.

The drive launched by the Secretary was to further the objectives of a cleaner and safer environment and in order to conserve drinking water it was decided that the saplings will be irrigated by unfiltered water.

What more, the Secretary also suggested that the public sector undertakings under his Department should undertake similar exercise. Hopefully after a season the sandstone walls of this majestic building will be dotted with creepers and hedges and provide a soothing effect.

Kissinger’s visit
There was some hype over the visit of former U S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he came to India last week.

Although the arrival of the diplomat who was known for his ‘shuttle diplomacy, was fixed much in advance the timing worked in his favour.

Kissinger, who was in India as a lobbyist for the American power giant Enron, sought permission to route via New Delhi.

Meanwhile, there was some heartening news for Enron when the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute released a report in Mumbai after a study. It indicated that survey of the samples collected from rivers surrounding Enron’s Dabhol power project in Guhagar Taluka of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra was contaminated due to faecal matter or high salt content.

However, the institute added that the study was conducted when the cooling tower of the Enron plant was not in operation. The Mumbai High Court had in February ordered the plant to ensure that it did not release untreated sewerage in Veldur river.

Is it Mumbai or Bombay?
What’s in a name? said the famous bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, but it is no longer so, at least in many parts of the country. Naming and re-naming roads, institutions and even cities has been a favourite pastime of political parties.

Several years ago it was felt that the spellings of cities would conform to phonetics. Hence, Jullunder became Jalandhar, Simla became Shimla, Cochin became Kochi, Poona became Pune and of course Bombay became Mumbai.

Yet, in the records of the Government of India, the spelling of Mumbai in Devnagri did not quite conform to the phonetics and it took efforts from Mr Ram Naik, the Minister of State for Railways who now holds additional charge of Minister of State for Home, to set the record straight. One of the first task he did after taking his seat in the North Block was to issue orders how Mumbai should be spelt both in English and languages using Devnagri script.

Afterall, the Home Ministry also has the Department of Official Languages under it.

From Global to “Glocal”
Global is passe. “Glocal” is the new mantra for success for several corporates around the world. The coming into being of Euro, the World Trade Organisation, the European Union, and the Internet has for all practical purposes shrunk the world.

“Going global” which was fashionable till the other day is not anymore. Corporates have to think global but then tailor their strategies to local conditions. That is the reason you have multinationals like Coca Cola and Pepsi celebrating “Holi” and “Diwali” with great fervour. For that matter even fast food chains like Kentucky and McDonalds offer Navratras special vegetarian meals.

Explains the CEO of the Spain-based multinational confectioner, Joyco, “Glocal” takes its name from the world Global and local. The marriage of the two is the perfect ‘masala’ for success these days.

(Contributed by SB, Satish Misra, T.V. Lakshminarayan, K.V. Prasad and P.N. Andley)


Indian Mathematical Society

THE fourth conference of the Indian Mathematical Society was opened in Poona this morning by the Honourable Mr Jadhav, Minister of Education. Several luminaries have sent messages of congratulations.There was a large gathering of mathematicians from all parts of India.The conference will continue its deliberations for two days more under the presidency of Mr Balak Ram, ICS, when a number of papers will be read and discussed.

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