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Succession battle in states in full swing

 Kalyani Shankar |  2016-11-04 21:48:17.0  |  New Delhi

Succession battle in states in full swing

What is common between Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Tamil Nadu former Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin? They are all waiting to succeed their illustrious parents.

Succession issue has its problems of adjustment between the older and younger generations. The Congress Party is a classic example of this. While the Congress President Sonia Gandhi has practically handed over the party to her son Rahul Gandhi, the transition is not taking place smoothly. Most senior leaders are upset with the style of functioning of Rahul as they are apprehensive of their future in the party. 

Rahul is impatient to fill up his inner circle with his coterie. The party would have tolerated this had he been a vote catcher. The murmurs from the old guards have been growing since the humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the subsequent Assembly polls. "This boy will not be able to deliver” is the chorus of the senior leaders, most of whom want Sonia Gandhi to continue at least until 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In the bitter succession war going on in Uttar Pradesh, the seniors like Shivpal Yadav, Amar Singh and others would rather have Mulayam Singh Yadav as Chief Minister than his son. Although Mulayam installed his son as Chief Minister five years ago, there is a fight for money and power among his family members. The SP patriarch is caught between his younger brother Shiv Pal and son Akhilesh. Shiv Pal, who lost out to Akhilesh in 2012 is eyeing the Chief Minister’s chair. 

The present confrontation is a classic case of father-uncle not being on the same page as Akhilesh who is touted as a development-oriented Chief Minister. Many UP watchers predict that Mulayam Singh might ultimately back his son. Mulayam criticised Akhilesh, supported Amar Singh but refused any disciplinary action against Akhilesh Yadav as demanded by Shivpal. 

Some say that the family drama was strategised to save Akhilesh from critics who might hold him responsible for the poor governance in the state by giving him a “Bechara” Chief Minister who is fighting to provide a clean administration. The public is willing to gloss over the governance aspect. Also, Mulayam might have a long term plan looking to 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the next Assembly polls as he fears that party might not come back this time. 

Some say that Mulayam's each decision — from publicly criticising Akhilesh and asking him to “mend his ways” to sacking him as the state president, has been carefully calibrated. The father and son now have control of the party and government.

No one can accuse Mulayam of not taking care of his clan as 20 of them are today M.Ps, MLAs, Zilla Parishad Presidents holding powerful positions. He has so far been able to maintain a miraculous balance by a deft distribution of government, party, and local body posts.

Mulayam has adopted the identity politics as well as the emerging presidential style of image oriented politics. At another level, he is also working on a grand alliance of socialist and secular forces by bringing together parties like Congress, JD(U), JD(S) BJD, RLD, RJD, and other like-minded parties.

In the far away Tamil Nadu, the DMK, which has been languishing out of power from 2011, was also facing a succession battle in the party chief M. Karunanidhi’s family. He declared his younger son M.K. Stalin as his political heir last week in a media interview. 

To pave the way, he had already expelled his older son and former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri for anti-party activities in 2013. Stalin had been projected as the knight errant riding on a white horse. The timing of the declaration was significant. While he may not be able to bring new voters, he can retain at least 75 percent of the core voters. 

The Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has been in the hospital for more than two and a half months. Her proxy O. Pannerselvam rules the state. The DMK chief is looking for a day when the AIADMK might split. His daughter Kanimozhi, who is presently a Rajya Sabha member and heads the party’s women wing, may be reconciled to play second fiddle to her brother Stalin. Kanimozhi’s political ambitions crashed after her alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam and her arrest in 2011.

Like Karunanidhi, his longtime friend Prakash Singh Badal, too, has a good personal image and can carry the party which is why despite his age, he has been projected as the Chief Ministerial candidate in the ensuing Assembly polls in Punjab. 

Between Punjab Chief Minister Badal, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, his son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, Sukhbir’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, and another relative Janmeja Singh Sekhon, the Badal clan has a good share in power. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Sukhbir’s wife, is a Union Minister. Sukhbir is the most influential leader in the Akali Dal today next to his father.

India is one country where democracy survives with a personality cult, and charismatic leaders have their fiefdoms. The problem for them is that they have to get elected to keep power. They go through the due process of elections and have to be accepted by the masses. This is indeed the beauty of Indian democracy.         

(The views expressed are strictly personal.) 

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