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Millennium Post

Because it runs in the family!

The trend of dynastic succession has been visible in India for quite some time and it has touched an all time high in Madhya Pradesh where assembly elections are due in November this year. Sons and daughters of politicians who have jumped into the political fray unlike their parents, are well educated, dedicated and articulate but they lack experience. For instance, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijaya Singh’s son, who joined Congress last week. Twenty seven-year-old Jaivardhan is an MBA degree holder from New York’s Colombia University and is likely to contest in the coming assembly elections from his father’s pocket borough, Raghogarh.

Jaivardhan is among Madhya Pradesh’s jet set whose visibility in public functions has been on the rise as assembly polls draw near. This group includes Pradesh Congress President Kantilal Bhuria’s son, Vikrant; Industry Minister Kailash Vijayavargiya’s son, Akash; Vidhan Sabha Speaker Ishwardas Rohani’s son, Alok and Sports Minister Tuko Rao Pawar’s son, Vikram among dozen other children of MLAs and MPs. A number of them such as Jaivardhan and Vikram are from erstwhile royal families. Also a younger progeny of leaders are in the process of being trained. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s son, Kartikey and Union Power Minister Jyotiradiya Scindia’s son, Mahanaryaman have just turned 18. Kartikey – a law student, runs a voter-awareness campaign in his father’s constituency. Mahanarayaman has already been addressing public meetings in the Gwalior region. There is no doubt that dynasties abound in India. In certain regions there are powerful dynastic patriarchs, for instance- Mulayam Singh Yadav in North, M Karunanidhi in South, and Naveen Patnaik in East. It has been estimated that a little over 28 per cent of the current MPs are dynasts.

Indian politicians need a strong leader to keep them in order. There must be some in the BJP, who seeing their disarrayed and leaderless party wish Atal Behari Vajpayee had an heir. A reluctant dynast Sonia Gandhi played an important role in undermining the authority of Narasimha Rao from behind the scenes. One wonders where the Congress would have been if she had not eventually decided to pull off a coup and take control of the family party.

With passage of time, the nature and dynamics of these dynasties too has changed. The nation is witness to how Lalu Prasad Yadav, forced to abdicate his chair following involvement in a multi-crore scam brought his wife in his place. Now he has brought his son in politics with great fanfare. Historians say it was not Nehru but his daughter who created the dynasty that now dominates the Congress. Indira Gandhi first brought Sanjay Gandhi in the field of politics and when he died in a plane crash, she brought her younger son Rajiv Gandhi. Two young stars – Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi party and Sukhbir Singh Badal of the SAD, have steered their parties to impressive victories in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab respectively.

Although he is the Chief Minister, Badal senior was hardly visible as Sukhbir took charge and ran the campaign without the help from his father. That he managed to do the impossible by bucking a historical trend and bringing an incumbent government back to power, has sealed the succession debate within the party in his favour. It has been evident for years that politics has increasingly become a family business in India but the recent elections have emphasised that political parties themselves have become family-run companies to be handed over from father to son or daughter, as the case may be. Once upon a time only the Congress could be accused of running on dynasty levers, now the same charge can be levied on parties across the political spectrum apart from the BJP and the Left Parties.

Anyone who dares to challenge the succession line, even if he belongs to ruling family is cut to size swiftly. Raj Thackeray- nephew of the late Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray and Sukhbir’s cousin Manpreet Badal, were charged with anti-party activity and expelled when they laid claim to leadership. Down south, DMK Chief Karunanidhi is still trying to decide who to make his political heir. Since claimants are all direct descendents, no one has been axed. Karunanidhi has to choose between Azhagiri, Stalin and Kanimozhi, his daughter who seems to have developed stronger political ambitions after her stint in jail.

DMK veterans who defend Karunanidhi’s tenacious grip on power say that Stalin is efficient but has none of his father’s charisma, oratorical skill or sense of drama. Even at 88, Karunanidhi thinks he has enough political fire in him to hang on to the DMK throne. Prince Stalin looks forward to a long wait for the top post. The new generation that is bringing along interesting changes, usually for the better for e.g Akhilesh, with his military school background and Australian post-graduate education has attempted a huge makeover of his party’s medieval image. Some of his decisions like free laptops to students who finish class XII well known.

In Punjab, Sukhbir Badal did similar make-over. The old churidar-kurta clad; kripan carrying; Jathedar, who used to be face of Akali Dal in his father’s time has made way for younger, well-educated, english-speaking and tech-savvy Sikhs. Sukhbir insisted that all his nominees start Face-book pages to keep in touch with voters. IPA
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