As Jyotiraditya Scindia took independent charge of the power ministry in the latest cabinet reshuffle, there was nostalgia in Congress circles about his father, Madhavrao Scindia, whose life was cut short by a plane crash in 2001. He was deputy leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha at that time. He had shown his dynamism as a result-oriented minister in the governments of Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao.
It was Madhavrao who made long distance rail travel comfortable. He introduced fully air-conditioned trains between Delhi and state capitals, and followed up with intercity Shatabdi Expresses. He laid emphasis on improving standards in rail services. All this happened when Madhavrao held independent charge of railways. The next dynamic railway minister was C.K. Jaffer Sharieff in the Rao government, who expanded the broad gauge railway system.
As cabinet minister in charge of civil aviation, Madhavrao opened the door for private airlines and for modernisation of airports. Dozens of airports in the country, which had tin-roofed hangars as passenger terminals, saw proper buildings coming up. When pilots of the monopolistic Indian Airlines went on their periodic strikes, Madhavrao declared, “I am not minister for Indian Airlines and Air India, I am the minister for civil aviation,” and backed the airline managements.
The next ministry he handled was the gargantuan human resource development, where he initiated programmes for universalisation of education, but he was felled by the hawala scandal. Madhavrao was upset that Rao had fixed him along with many Congress leaders as the Prime Minister saw the Gwalior leader as a threat. After floating the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress, he won the 1996 elections and supported the United Front governments for the next two years. But his heart was in the Congress and his friends were Congressmen. Madhavrao returned to the Congress, when Rao was ousted.
He was one of the key advisers of Sonia Gandhi when she assumed the twin roles of Congress president and leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Everyone assumed that whenever the Congress came to power, Madhavrao would be Sonia's choice for one of the big jobs at Raisina Hill.
His death led to a clamour in Gwalior for Jyotiraditya to give up his management career and contest elections. After patiently serving his term as a minister of state in the commerce ministry, Jyotiraditya has got the chance to meet the expectations set by his father.