National

Madhavrao Scindia Dies In Plane Crash

All eight on board die in tragic crash: his personal secretary Rupinder Singh, journalists Sanjeev Sinha (The Indian Express), Anju Sharma (The Hindustan Times), Gopal Bisht, Ranjan Jha (Aaj Tak), pilot Ray Gautam and co-pilot Ritu.

Madhavrao Scindia Dies In Plane Crash
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Plane crashes, terrorist victims, accidents, tragedies... seem to have haunted Congressparty eerily in its recent history. The shocking news of the crash of a plane carryingcharismatic Congress leader and a scion of Gwalior royal family, Madhavrao Scindia, near Mota village inBhogaon tehsil of Mainpuri district of central Uttar Pradesh, on Sundayafternoon, killing all eight persons on board is the latest in this series of misfortunes to have hit the beleagured party.

There were seven more persons on board apart from Scindia, including four journalists,when the ten-seater private plane carrying them crashed in a paddy field near herein heavy rains and poor visibility.

Scindia's personal secretary Rupinder Singh, Delhi-based journalists -- Anju Sharma (Hindustan Times), Sanjeev Sinha (IndianExpress), Ranjan Jha (Aaj Tak) and Gopal Bisht (Aaj Tak TV cameraman), Pilot RayGautam and co-pilot Ritu perished when the engine of Cessna C-90 aircraft caughtfire and the plane nose-dived into the field in Motta village bursting intoflames around 2.30 pm. 

Poor visibility because of rains also appeared to be one of the reasons forthe crash, district police chief Sridhar Pathak said.

All the bodies, charred beyond recognition, were being taken to Agra by roadfrom where they would be brought to Delhi by a special IAF aircraft sent byPrime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee whom Scindia had defeated in Lok sabha pollin Gwalior in 1984.

Scindia, a veteran parliamentarian and rated as a Congress prime ministerialcandidate before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections in the aftermath of controversyover Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, was on his way to address a rally in Kanpur.

For the Congress, it is the second loss of a young leader after the death ofRajesh Pilot in a road accident last year.

Home Minister Advani told reporters in New Delhi that Scindia's son Jyotiraditya is going in theplane to identify his father's body alongwith one member from each of thebereaved families.

Replying to a question, the home minister said all the bodies had beenrecovered and postmortem would be conducted tomorrow morning.

The plane, a chartered flight belonging to Jindal Strips, took off at 12.39pm and was en route to Kanpur, where Scindia was to address public meetings. The plane was to reach Kanpur at 1.50 pm,but it abruptly lost contact with Lucknow Air Traffic Control at 1.20 pm.

Scindia, 56, was on his way to Kanpur to address a party rally later thisevening. Mani Shankar Aiyer, who was supposed to accompany him, told Star Newsthat Madhavrao had requested him to change plans so as to accomodate thejournalists whom he had already invited.

Politicians cutting across party lines -- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Congress president Sonia Gandhi with daughter Priyanka and Home Minister LalKishinchand Advani were among the first to arrive -- Union Law Minister ArunJaitley, Congress leaders R K Dhawan, Najma Heptullah and Dr Manmohan Singh, andformer prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral were among the many thronging theScindia household.

Sophisticated, suave, articulate, Madhavrao Scindia, with the distinction ofbeating Atal Behari Vajpayee, in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections was long seen asprime-ministerial material by those within and outside the Congress party.Indeed, he had emerged as the defacto and even de jure Number Two in the partywith his appointment as the Deputy Floor Leader in the Lok Sabha and was largely seen trusted lieutenant of Congress president and Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Scindia was one of those few who joined the Congress in 1977, when Indira Gandhi lost power and was handpicked by Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 to set up a newoffice, when Congress lost the elections under Rajiv and served with distinctionin various ministerial positions. He is widely regarded as one of the bestRailway Ministers India ever had and the various Shatabadis will remain as hiscontribution to Indian railways commuters.

After having served in Narasimha Rao's cabinet with distinction, he was denied party ticket to contest theelections in 1996, in the wake of the Hawala scandal. That is when he floated his own Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress (MPVC), but returned to the Congress, within a year, soon after Sitaram Kesri became Congress president.

Scindia had the distinction of being elected in all the successive elections since 1971 till 1999. Extremely charismatic, andarticulate in both Hindi and English, the former Maharaja of Gwalior was one ofthose rare Congress leaders at the centre with a mass base of his own.

A Sporting Politician

Despite hectic schedules he had to keep as a politician, Scindia always hadtime for sports and welfare of sportspersons.

An active weekend cricketer and a keen amateur golfer, Scindia brought allhis administrative and diplomatic acumen he was famous for, in the running ofsports in the country both as an administrator and as a minister.

Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi said it was a "big blowto the sporting community. Personally I have lost a very, very good friend andthe country has lost yet another good leader".

Cricket Board vice-president C K Khanna said the death of the sport buff wasa "tremendous loss to Indian sports in general and cricket inparticular".

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Scindia's tenure as Human Resource Development Minister (in charge of Sportstoo) in 1995-96 in the P V Narasimha Rao government was too short for him to domuch. But it was Scindia's ability to look at the problems from a sportsperson'sangle too that marked him out.

To him goes the credit for taking big time cricket to his hometown Gwaliorwhere the stadium is curiously named after one of the hockey legends of thecountry Capt Roop Singh - younger brother of the immortal Dhyan Chand.

He also spurred the Madhya Pradesh cricket team to rise from the level ofpoor country cousins to that of one of the front-runners on the domestic scene.

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In a message, Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Jagdalesaid the death of Scindia was a personal loss to the state unit which rose togreat heights during his stewardship and had the distinction of hosting manyinternational matches.

Always lending a sympathetic ear to the troubled, Scindia was a sportingpolitician, a rare breed indeed.

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