The royal kingdoms were incorporated into India at Independence in 1941. The royal families retained their titles and were given privy purses, supposedly for life, but these were abolished by Indira Gandhi in 1970. The Maharaja died in 1960 and she became the Rajmata.
She first entered politics in 1957, running as a Congress party candidate in Madhya Pradesh. She was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1957, 1962, 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998. In between she was elected to the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly (1967-71) and the Rajya Sabha (1978-89). In fact, she won all the elections she ever contested. In 1967 she resigned from the Congress and joined the Jana Sangh on principle and ideology.
In 1975, during Indira Gandhi's Emergency, she was imprisoned in Tihar Jail as a political prisoner. This led to lifelong differences with her son, who chose instead to leave India for Nepal and stay with his sister Usha Raje. Soon after the Emergency was lifted, Madhavrao returned and joined Indira's Congress party, while his mother remained in the Jana Sangh opposition. She rose into a leadership role in 1980 when she became one of the BJP vice-presidents. She was strongly in favour of the BJP's Ayodhya theme, and remained in the BJP leadership until she left politics in 1998 for health reasons. Of her five children, her daughter Vasundhara Raje and her son MadhavRao Scindia also went into politics, and each served as a cabinet minister (External Affairs and Treasury, respectively).
Among her other roles, she served as President, All India Women's Conference (Gwalior Branch) for 40 years; Trustee, Viswa Hindu Parishad; Pro-Chancellor, Sagar University. She wrote two books -- an autobiography with Manohar Malgonkar called The Last Maharani of Gwalior, and Lok Path se Raj Path, in Hindi.
Vijaya Raje Scindia died in 2001.