Born On: 1919
Born In: Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
Died On: 2001
Career: Political Leader
She is renowned as an active politician from the Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party. For years, she ruled one of the largest and richest princely states of India. The world remembers her as the Rajmata of Gwalior. She is Vijayaraje Scindia, the spouse of the last ruling Maharaja of Gwalior, Jiyajirao Scindia. She hailed from a branch of the Nepali royal family, who was exiled to Sagar in India in the 1880s. Apart from her active participation in politics, she held several other positions as well. She served as the President of All India Women’s Conference for over 40 years, Trustee of Viswa Hindu Parishad, and Pro-Chancellor of Sagar University. Besides, Scindia wrote two books, namely, “The Last Maharani of Gwalior” (an autobiography with Manohar Malgonkar) and “Lok Path se Raj Path”.
Vijayaraje Scindia was born as Lekha Divyeshwari in Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh State of India. She was born as the eldest child of Thakur Mahendra Singh and his first wife Chuda Deveshwari. Her father was a government employee working as a deputy director in the provincial administration. However, her mother, who belonged to the royal Rana family of Nepal, died at childbirth. Thereafter, her father Thakur Mahendra Singh married again. Since he had a family to take care of, Lekha Divyeshwari was brought up by her maternal grandfather, Khadga Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana and grandmother, Rani Dhan Kumari. He was charged with the murder of his uncle in 1885 and hence, was serving exile in India. Being looked after by her grandparents, Lekha Divyeshwari gained immense inspiration from them in her growing years. After completing her initial schooling at home and later at a school in Sagar, she went to Dr. Annie Besant Theosophical College in Banaras and Isabel Thorborne College in Lucknow. She led a very simple and normal life and even gave up using foreign goods and fabric with the rise of Indian independence movement.
Though Lekha Divyeshwari led a normal standard life, it came to an end soon when she got married. At the age of 22 years on February 21, 1941, she was married off to Jiyajirao Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior and hence, was given the name Vijayaraje as per the traditions to change the name of the bride depending upon the couple’s horoscope. Thus, Lekha Divyeshwari became Vijayaraje Scindia. Gwalior was one of the largest, richest, and highest-ranking 21-gun-salute princely states of India at that time. The couple had four daughters and one son, namely, Padmavatiraje 'Akkasaheb’ Scindia, Usharaje Scindia, Madhavrao Scindia, Vasundhara Raje, and Yashodhara Raje.
Entry into Politics
With her husband’s death in 1961, Scindia became Rajmata, an honor which she held until her death in 2001. She first entered politics in 1962, where she was elected for the Guna Lok Sabha seat from Madhya Pradesh on a Congress ticket. Subsequently, Scindia won the elections but five years down the line in 1967, she left Congress and joined Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Jan Sangh. She was elected to Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1967 which she served till 1971. She later contested for Rajya Sabha and won. Scindia served in office from 1978 to 1989. Interestingly, she won all elections that she contested for, with over seven consecutive parliamentary elections. During Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in 1975, Scindia was imprisoned in Tihar Jail where she served as a political prisoner. With this began lifelong differences between Scindia and her son Madhavrao who left India and went to Nepal to stay with his sister Usha Raje. After the Emergency was lifted, he returned back to India and joined Congress, thereby increasing the differences with his mother. The year 1980 proved to be beneficial for Scindia when she became one of the Vice Presidents of BJP. She provided her full support to Ayodhya theme and continued as the Vice President of BJP until 1998, when she quit due to declining health issues.
Vijayaraje’s husband’s sudden death in 1961 left her a widow with five children to bring up. With no support from either side, she made all efforts to bring her children to meet with the idealized standards of lifestyle and behavior. Being more warm and cordial towards the elder daughters, she admitted in her autobiography about her missing support towards her younger daughters. She even extended that had her husband been alive, he would have handled their disturbed marriages in a better way. Her most disturbing moments came when she joined politics and later on, when her son Madhavrao Scindia entered politics. Due to political differences, her relationship with her son had always been in trouble. Such was the bitterness in their relationship that she had forbidden him from performing her last rituals in her will that was read upon her death.
Vijayaraje Scindia died in 2001 at the age of 81 years.
1919: Born in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
1941: Married Maharaja of Gwalior, Jiyajirao Scindia on February 21
1961: Husband died and Vijayaraje became Rajmata of Gwalior
1962: Entered politics on a Congress ticket
1967: Left Congress and joined Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Jan Sangh
1967: Elected to Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly
1975: Imprisoned in Tihar Jail during the Emergency
1978: Elected to Rajya Sabha
1980: Became one of the Vice Presidents of BJP
1998: Retired from Vice Presidentship due to health reasons
2001: Died at the age of 81