Hypocrisy of Dy­nasts

Dy­nasts are in­ter­ested in claim­ing the po­lit­i­cal legacy as nat­u­ral heir of the party in­cepted by their an­ces­tors. But, they have lit­tle in­ter­est in ide­ol­ogy their par­ents fought for

The Day After - - CONTENT - By aniL anand

How were the yore-years monar­chi­cal dy­nas­ties dif­fer­ent from the present day po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties? Should there be a dy­nas­ti­cal struc­ture at all in a bub­bling democ­racy like In­dia? Given the de­vel­op­ments tak­ing place all around, from Kash­mir to Kanyaku­mari (and in the lit­eral sense), where the so called po­lit­i­cal or dy­nas­tic fam­i­lies are ei­ther on the boil or fac­ing tran­si­tional tur­moil, th­ese ques­tions are des­per­ately beg­ging for an­swers.

The coun­try took a huge his­toric step when it ush­ered into a demo­cratic polity from cen­turies of monar­chi­cal rule with di­vided prin­ci­pal­i­ties via the 200 years of au­to­cratic for­eign rule that was ev­ery­thing but peo­ples’ rule. Yes, the seven decades of democ­racy has done well. Since no sys­tem is per­fect so there is no harm in ad­mit­ting that the cur­rent demo­cratic struc­ture has its weak-links which need to be plugged from time to time. There are ef­forts to iden­tify and plug th­ese weakspots through Con­sti­tu­tional and other mea­sures but th­ese ef­forts are abysmally slow and tardy.

But one area or is­sue that tran­scends be­yond Con­sti­tu­tional pro­pri­eties and has a lot to do with per­sonal com­mit­ments and moral­ity re­lates to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties that are spread across the coun­try from Kash­mir to Kanyaku­mari. Since most of th­ese po­lit­i­cal par­ties, which oth­er­wise swear by demo­cratic spirit and in­ner-party democ­racy are cur­rently wit­ness­ing a tran­si­tional phase, some from first to the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion while oth­ers even be­yond that, the vul­gar face of the dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics has jar­ringly come out that im­me­di­ately trig­gers a com­par­i­son with the monar­chi­cal times which is but nat­u­ral.

The times and the cir­cum­stances in which th­ese two sys­tems ush­ered were dif­fer­ent and can­not be com­pared. The tran­si­tional phases in the two sys­tems are ab­so­lutely in­com­pa­ra­ble and so are the means to achieve the gen­er­a­tional shift. The ba­sic prin­ci­ple of tran­si­tion of power from one gen­er­a­tion to the other has re­mained the same, con­spir­a­cies and ma­nip­u­la­tions, with claimants to the throne un­spar­ingly snip­ing at each other. The big change or shift is that there are no “bloody in­trigues of royal palace” as the tran­si­tional fight used to be prover­bially de­scribed dur­ing monar­chi­cal times.

The in­trigues and re­volts for the ul­ti­mate claim of po­lit­i­cal legacy of a par­tic­u­lar fam­ily or an in­di­vid­ual, ei­ther by go­ing against the party pa­tri­arch or the claimants hav­ing a go at each other, are at full play even in the cur­rent phase. Even if there is no blood­shed as was as­so­ci­ated with the palace in­trigues, cer­tain prac­tices be­ing fol­lowed ei­ther by the pa­tri­archs to han­dover the ba­ton to their fa­vorite ward or the war­ring heir ap­par­ent to show each other down run against the grain of demo­cratic prac­tices.

The drama that un­folded in the DMK, it be­gan dur­ing the life time of its pa­tri­arch M Karunanid­dhi with ap­point­ment of his fa­vorite son Stalin as the heir ap­par­ent and con­cluded on his Ma­rina beach memo­rial. The hap­pen­ings in the for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter Devi Lal clan’s Haryana-cen­tric fam­ily fief­dom of In­dian Na­tional Lok Dal aka INLD with the cur­rent fam­ily head Om Prakash Chau­tala, since con­victed and serv­ing im­pris­on­ment along with his el­der son Ajay Singh in a case of cor­rup­tion, sus­pended Ajay’s son from the party to pave way for hand­ing over of the ba­ton to his younger son Ab­hay Chau­tala, are the lat­est and most

dis­turb­ing in­stances of the modern day “royal palace in­trigues”.

Th­ese two lat­est ex­am­ples and there are many such hap­pen­ings in the past, are an in­di­ca­tor of two dis­turb­ing facts; one, the dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics is be­com­ing stronger by the day thereby fur­ther dam­ag­ing the demo­cratic val­ues such as in­ner party democ­racy and equal op­por­tu­nity of growth to all; sec­ond, the fa­ther-sons and brother ver­sus brother and in cases such as that of the Chau­ta­las, grand­fa­ther ver­sus the grand­sons con­flicts, have led to the ba­sic moral val­ues par­tic­u­larly based on mu­tual re­spect and af­fec­tion go­ing for a toss.

Th­ese were not the first nor would be the last such hap­pen­ings given the fact that dy­nas­tic or­der has been firmly grip­ping the demo­cratic sys­tem from re­gion to re­gion, state to state and ul­ti­mately at the na­tional lev­els. In the process the so­cial and moral val­ues are also be­com­ing a ca­su­alty. For in­stance how would one de­scribe the

fight be­tween OP Chau­tala and his two grand­sons? The grand­sons tried to show their strength dur­ing a pub­lic rally be­ing at­tended by him with their sup­port­ers rais­ing slo­gans against their el­ders. On the other hand the grand­fa­ther used the harsh­est of terms against the grand­sons and an­nounced their sus­pen­sion from the party to clear the route for his young son, be­fore he went back to the jail af­ter ex­piry of his pa­role.

Be­fore com­ing to the ques­tion as to whether dy­nas­ties or po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties have any place or be al­lowed to pros­per in a demo­cratic set up such as ours, it will be in­ter­est­ing to have a cur­sory look at the as­tro­nom­i­cal growth of th­ese phe­nom­ena on pan-In­dia ba­sis. The con­cept has spread its ten­ta­cles so fast that it is now re­sult­ing in plethora of sub-dy­nas­ties mush­room­ing even within a strong dy­nast- con­trolled fam­ily fief­dom.

Ini­tially the only party, at least at the na­tional lev­els, which used to be ac­cused of en­cour­ag­ing are de­pend­ing on dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics was the Congress. Of course the back­drop for this fact was pro­vided by the strong pres­ence of the NehruGandhi fam­ily mem­bers be­gin­ning with Pan­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru and en­ter­ing fourth gen­er­a­tion with the cur­rent party pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi.

“Pari­var­vad” (nepo­tism) was once the main plank of the op­po­si­tion lead­ers rang­ing from Ram Manohar Lo­hia, Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee, Ge­orge Fer­nan­des, LK Ad­vani .... and the list is long and un­wind­ing. Gone are the days and ever since the en­tire com­plex­ion of the In­dian pol­i­tics has changed par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics.

It is un­for­tu­nate but a hard fact that bar­ring the Left par­ties, po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties have ei­ther taken over the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties are floated new out­fits which are en­tirely run by their fam­ily mem­bers. This is a dis­turb­ing trend which has spread from the na­tional lev­els to the re­gion and state lev­els and so the re­sul­tant turf wars.

Be­gin­ning with Congress, now many re­gional par­ties have also found them­selves con­trolled by some po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies. Start­ing from Jammu and Kash­mir with Ab­dul­lah and Mufti fam­i­lies con­trol­ling Na­tional Con­fer­ence and Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party re­spec­tively, Andhra Pradesh’s Tel­ugu De­sam Party (TDP), Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi (TRS) in the newly carved out state of Te­len­gana, In­dian Na­tional Lok Dal (INLD), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) founded by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Chaud­hary Cha­ran Singh and sub­se­quently con­trolled by his son Ajit Singh with now grand­son Jayant en­ter­ing the arena, the fa­ther-son, Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal, con­trolled Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal, the Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav-clan con­trolled Sa­ma­jd­wadi Party, the Lalu Prasad Ya­dav’s fam­ily con­cern Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and even the Jhark­hand Mukti Mor­cha (JMM), the fam­ily not only mat­ters, but also calls the shots. How could one go with­out men­tion­ing the Lok Jan Shakti Party of Ramvi­las Paswan, Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party founded by Sharad Pawar and about to be handed over to his daugh­ter Supriya Sule, Shiv Sena of Bal Thack­ery which is al­ready pre­par­ing to be taken over by the third gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily, so on so forth.

Nearly two dozen peo­ple re­lated to Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav hold some po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion or the other. His son Akhilesh was the chief min­is­ter of Ut­tar Pradesh for five years, while his brother was a se­nior min­is­ter in the state for sev­eral years. Of the five MPs of his party, four are from his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his daugh­ter-in-law Dim­ple Ya­dav.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad Ya­dav too has many fam­ily mem­bers in pol­i­tics. In fact, when the fod­der scam threat­ened his chief min­is­ter­ship, he brought his wife Rabri Devi in his place. One of his sons, Te­jaswi, served as Bi­har’s deputy chief min­is­ter un­til re­cently, an­other was a se­nior min­is­ter in the state, while his daugh­ter Misa Bharati is a Ra­jya Sabha MP.

Paswan, whose rise, like that of Mu­layam and Lalu, is linked to the Janata Party days, is a min­is­ter in the Naren­dra Modi govern­ment. His son Chi­rag Paswan and brother Ram­chan­dra Paswan are among the hand­ful of MPs of the Lok Jan­shakti Party while his other brother, Pashu­pati Ku­mar Paras, is now a min­is­ter in the Ni­tish Ku­mar govern­ment in Bi­har.

Down south, Tamil Nadu has seen po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies flour­ish. Karunanidhi had been the chief min­is­ter sev­eral times. His son MK Stalin is cur­rently the leader of the op­po­si­tion in the state and is seen as a fu­ture chief min­is­ter while el­der son Ala­giri, a for­mer Union Min­is­ter in UPA dis­pen­sa­tion, was sulk­ing and thrown out of the party by Karunanidhi dur­ing his life time. And so the fight is still on be­tween Stalin and Ala­giri.

The is­sue of Tel­ugu pride brought

su­per­star NT Rama Rao from the green room of the film stu­dio to the room head­ing the un­di­vided Andhra Pradesh cab­i­net in the early 1980s by form­ing the TDP. His son-in-law and cur­rent Andhra Pradesh chief min­is­ter N Chan­drababu Naidu took for­ward this po­lit­i­cal legacy. His son Lokesh is the ris­ing star in the state cab­i­net.

Sim­i­lar is the story in neigh­bour­ing Te­lan­gana. The son of TRS leader and chief min­is­ter K Chan­drasekhar Rao, KT Rama Rao, is seen as the ris­ing star in the party. His daugh­ter Kavitha is also a Lok Sabha MP.

This apart, there many small fam­ily cen­tric par­ties at sub-re­gional lev­els par­tic­u­larly in large states such as Ut­tar Pradesh, Bi­har, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra etc. Most of the re­gional and sub-re­gional dy­nas­tic po­lit­i­cal par­ties are based ei­ther on re­li­gion, such as Shiv Sena and Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal, or caste as is the case with Paswan, Apna Dal (UP) which is now con­trolled by the fam­ily of its founder Sone Lal Pa­tel or Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (Bi­har) of Union Min­is­ter Upen­dra Kush­waha.

Cer­tainly, th­ese po­lit­i­cal par­ties pro­vide a deadly mix of caste/re­li­gion and dy­nas­ties. None of th­ese fac­tors are in con­so­nance with the demo­cratic val­ues but the harsh re­al­i­ties are be­fore ev­ery­one to see. Also, be­hind growth of this deadly mix­ture is the ur­gent need of na­tional po­lit­i­cal par­ties mainly BJP and Congress, to forge win­ning al­liances. The BJP un­der Modi and Amit Shah took this ex­per­i­ment suc­cess­fully to a macro level in 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions. As a re­sult BJP heads al­most a 48-party rul­ing coali­tion. The Congress dur­ing the 10 years of UPA rule was a poor sec­ond on this count.

As the war for 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tions heats up, there is no doubt that this ex­per­i­ment will be tested in many new forms and in the ul­ti­mate the po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties will get an im­por­tant role to play. Any big player ig­nor­ing Ab­dul­lahs and Muftis in Jammu and Kash­mir, Badals in Pun­jab, Chau­ta­las in Haryana, Paswans and Kush­wa­has in Bi­har and Apna Dal in UP, would do at his or her own peril.

The dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics has cer­tainly trav­elled out of the Congress where it was ini­tially con­fined to only the Nehru-Gandhi fam­ily but sub­se­quently the other lead­ers fol­lowed the guid­ing prin­ci­ple set by the first fam­ily. In to­day’s Congress there is the main dy­nasty and sub-dy­nas­ties ga­lore. Any and ev­ery leader worth his or her salt has en­sured that their wards or new gen­er­a­tions en­ter the Congress pol­i­tics.

Com­ing to the BJP which in its ear­lier ‘avtar’ Bharatiya Jan Sangh and later BJP tar­geted the Congress as a party of “pari­var­vad” with spe­cific ref­er­ence to Nehru-Gandhi fam­ily. It re­mains a fact that right from Va­j­payee, Ad­vani, Murli Manohar Joshi to Prime Min­is­ter Modi, none of them had or have fam­ily mem­bers into BJP pol­i­tics. But that is not true of the en­tire BJP which is now not even a pale shade of what it once used to be a party with a dif­fer­ence. There is the Dhu­mal dy­nasty in Hi­machal Pradesh, a Va­sund­hara Raje fam­ily in Ra­jasthan that ex­tends up to Mad­hya Pradesh, the Pramod Ma­ha­jan, Gopinath Munde and Narain Rane fam­i­lies in Ma­harah­stra among oth­ers. This apart the most of the NDA al­lies are all fam­ily-cen­tric out­fits.

The vi­tal ques­tion arises whether dy­nas­ties have any place in a demo­cratic set-up? On the ba­sis of barom­e­ter of moral­ity and ethics, the an­swer is no at least to the man­ner in which par­ties are be­ing floated and run by the fam­i­lies and their mem­bers. It de­feats the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of democ­racy of equal

op­por­tu­ni­ties to all and not only the fam­ily con­trol­ling or more be­fit­tingly own­ing the party. Yes, such po­lit­i­cal par­ties are be­ing owned by some fam­i­lies, which in it­self is an anti-the­sis to demo­cratic norms.

It is the Con­sti­tu­tional right of ev­ery In­dia in­clud­ing the wards of a po­lit­i­cal leader own­ing a po­lit­i­cal party to en­ter pol­i­tics and con­test elec­tions. It is in this light that an ar­gu­ment is of­ten for­warded by such lead­ers that if a doc­tor’s son/ daugh­ter can be­come a doc­tor, and an en­gi­neer’s son/daugh­ter an en­gi­neer, so what is the harm if their sons and daugh­ters be­come politi­cians.

Cer­tainly there is no harm and they are well within their rights. Such lead­ers should also set some stan­dards to mea­sure the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their wards. Should their wards para-drop and jump to the top of the party owned by their fa­ther or mother? This is what is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing and in turn ham­per­ing the growth of new and gen­uine lead­er­ship at all lev­els.

More im­por­tantly the own­ers of the dy­nas­tic po­lit­i­cal par­ties have to set some stan­dards for them­selves as well. Let us con­cede that the dy­nas­ties in modern day pol­i­tics can­not be wished away, the best the lead­ers can do is to set some stan­dards to be fol­lowed dur­ing tran­si­tion from one gen­er­a­tion to the other. It sounds more the­o­ret­i­cal but cer­tain norms need to be put in place so as to pre­vent ugly sit­u­a­tions such as the ones un­fold­ing on Chennai’s Ma­rina beach or at the Haryana pub­lic ral­lies of the INLD where grand­fa­ther and grand­sons came face to face.

Fi­nally, if the own­ers of th­ese po­lit­i­cal par­ties and their wards re­main un­fazed to the pub­lic con­cern in the event of such ugly sce­nar­ios, should not the pub­lic act? There is a strong case for peo­ple to mull over and re­act to the sit­u­a­tion where dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics with all its mal­adies run­ning rough shod over demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and val­ues. It is in the in­ter­est of the In­dian Repub­lic that dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics in all its forms, bar­ring where the younger gen­er­a­tion proves its met­tle on the ground, should be dis­cour­aged. The only way to do this is to re­ject them at the hus­tings.

As it is ide­olo­gies on which the lead­ers of yore built their po­lit­i­cal ed­i­fices, have fast lost rel­e­vance in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics. The lust for power, by hook or crook, seems to have sole mo­tive of pol­i­tics. The founders of most of the dy­nas­tic po­lit­i­cal par­ties went through rough and tum­ble of pol­i­tics in the process build­ing move­ments af­ter move­ments based and at­tracted peo­ple to their hold by dint of ide­o­log­i­cal be­liefs.

The di­lu­tion of ide­o­log­i­cal be­liefs be­gan grad­u­ally and seems to have touched its low­est ebb cur­rently. It is rather in­trigu­ing that the younger set of lead­ers be it Stalin, Akhilesh Ya­dav, OP Chau­tala’s MP grand­son Dushyant, Sheikh Ab­dul­lah’s grand­son Omar Ab­dul­lah and many younger lead­ers of their ilk des­per­ately wanted to be­come heir ap­par­ent and grab their il­lus­tri­ous grand­fa­thers and fa­ther po­lit­i­cal legacy but none seems to be in­ter­ested in the ide­olo­gies which gave iconic sta­tus to their el­ders.

The re­al­ity is that the sole guid­ing fac­tor among th­ese po­lit­i­cal dy­nasts is to grab power through ex­ploit­ing the im­age of their el­ders. They some­times carry the sym­bols of the ide­olo­gies their el­ders be­lieved in, for ex­am­ple Akhilesh sup­port­ing a red cap sym­bol­iz­ing sama­jwad, only to please them and en­sure smooth trans­fer of power. For them the ide­o­log­i­cal be­lief is noth­ing more than that.

We re­gret poor pic­ture qual­ity

A file photo of Akhilesh Ya­dav, Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav and Shiv­pal Singh Ya­dav with Azam Khan

Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaud­hary with Ajit Singh in a rally

INLD leader Ajay, Ab­hay and Dushyant Chau­tala ad­dresses a rally

DMK Pres­i­dent MK Stalin with fam­ily mem­bers dur­ing DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s fu­neral cer­e­mony

RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Ya­dav and Rabri Devi with fam­ily

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